Andrea Domjan is a talented artist. Like most other professional photographers, she tells her stories through beautiful pictures. Some stories, however, are more powerful than others. When it comes to her sister-in-law, Dori, and Dori’s dog, Alf, this powerful story became bittersweet. It might not be the assignment most photographers are looking to cover, but we’re so glad Domjan is able to help share Dori and Alf’s story with us.
Alf is a Bullmastiff. When Domjan received Dori’s call asking her to take a series of photographs of the two of them together, she was devastated to learn that Alf had been diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer. These photographs would become the celebration of Alf’s life as he reached the end of his journey here on Earth. With an estimated 50% of dogs being diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, Domjan knew that Dori and Alf’s story would touch the lives of very many people.
Dori has rescued many Bullmastiffs from shelters throughout the years, each making an impact on her life for the better. Domjan says Dori always chose the old or disabled dogs to offer them a better life towards the end of their days. Domjan wanted to capture the special relationship Dori and Alf had, celebrating everything they loved doing together, like going on walks, sitting watching the scenery and riding in Dori’s convertible.
It has been several years since Alf passed away. In fact, Dori said her final goodbyes to Alf just weeks after this precious photoshoot. But Domjan’s pictures will forever remain Dori’s heart, and ours as well. We know that Dori and Alf’s story can help comfort and inspire other dog owners who have dogs with cancer. We know that these photographs have helped Dori heal.
When asked about how her art has helped Dori, Domjan replied, “These photos have helped her a lot because this way she remembers the good times only, like their walks together, or sitting next to each other, looking at the beautiful nature surrounding them. Although looking at them, Dori could see it in his eyes that he was already very ill, the first thing that comes to her mind is their perfect harmony and how big Alf’s role was in her life, how he became her better half.”
“For a long time Dori thought that cancer was her fault. She blamed herself and felt that maybe she hadn’t treated him right or she hadn’t given Alf enough love. But later she found out that cancer was in his genetics, it turned out that his mom, uncle and brother had already passed away because of cancer,” Domjan added, speaking of Dori. “She’s also learned that another important factor can be the food and lifestyle that owners provide their dogs. Ever since then she’s been very cautious about what kind of food she gives to her pets. Now she prefers BARF raw feeding and she does everything in her power to prevent any illness. Dori strongly believes that it’s possible to win against cancer. She knows a lot of dogs that actually have survived cancer.”
Dori adds, “You can and you have to do everything to fight it. At the same time, you have to know when to stop fighting and let them go.” We couldn’t agree more. It’s never easy to say goodbye or to struggle with any illness our beloved dogs may succumb to. But we can be their rock, as they are ours, and we can support each other and love each other forever, even after we say our final physical goodbyes.
I, the author, want to personally thank Andrea Domjan and Dori for sharing Alf’s story with us at iHeartDogs. My oldest Corgi is battling lymphoma now, and I know firsthand the difficulty that comes with fighting cancer. I hope this story helps remind all of our readers that we, as owners of dogs with cancer, are not alone. We can support and strengthen each other through our experiences, with tears in our eyes and gaps in our hearts, with the one thing we all have in common – the love for our dogs.