I strongly believe that my talent lies not in photography but through using photography to make emotional connections with people.
The success I've seen in my first official year as a photographer I put down to this ability and to Him who gave it to me.
If you've read this blog for any time at all, you'll know that I love love. I'm a passionate person and I'm extremely positive in my life. I'm not sure if it's been clear or not but the last few weeks, while we've experienced the highest high of our lives, we've been balancing one of our lowest lows.
I think just like Kesh hasn't found the right words to explain the birth of Roo, I haven't found the right words to tell the story of Trooper - our dog. For Kesh and Roo's birth, the words still haven't come. Maybe they never will. Maybe they will always be somewhere between her conscious thought and the keyboard. For me, the words for Trooper are flooding into my mind. And so I find myself, here at the computer, tapping them out.
I'm not sure I want Kesh to read this. I've been thinking about how I could keep this from her. How I could make sure she didn't check my blog. I can't do that though.
Before we were married, we'd started looking for dogs. Kesh loves living things and dogs are her favourite animal. She is passionate about the welfare of all animals and has a connection to the animal kingdom that I don't think I've seen before. Without telling Kesh, I'd gone back to the RSPCA and picked Troop up as a Christmas present for her.
He was our family, before we had our own and he rode home in the car with us on Kesh's lap, licking her face, just every now and then.
The relationship Trooper forged with us was not like most dog-human relationships. Trooper came everywhere with us. I mean it. He came to church, birthdays, dinners, reunions, dates, beaches, holidays and everything else we did.
He was a special dog, who loved us.
After two knee operations, Troop's quality of life wasn't what is should have been. He wasn't allowed to move faster than a walk, which we really struggled with. Our daily runs along the beach were no more.
One night, we had friends over for dinner who were also animal lovers and they really wanted to meet Troop. We still don't know what happened, or why, but Trooper bit our friend as she leant down to pat him. He bit her face and I'll never forget how I felt that night.
I barely spoke a word for the remaining hour or more that our guests were with us. I couldn't process what had happened and I think the consequences of Troop's actions were overflowing what my mind could process within minutes.
Kesh and I spoke about putting Trooper down. The conversations were tear filled and heavy to hold. Ultimately, we decided against it, and to be much stricter in our management of who Troop came into contact with.
We tried to ensure that Troop was being fulfilled in every way he needed to make sure this wouldn't happen again. We were much more careful with Troop's interactions and were confident we could make it work.
I'm sad to say that Troop didn't improve. He actually got worse. The details are hard to go into here and not something I want to think about too much but I remember bringing Roo home, and seeing Trooper lunge at my nephew, who was visiting. Knowing that if the barrier wasn't there, my nephew might not be. And then a few days later, the same thing happened with my sister. Unprovoked attacks towards people he knew and loved. He bit once again and I knew, as I knew almost a year earlier, what had to be done.
It's not something Kesh could process. She had given birth just four days earlier. Her body and mind were fatigued beyond comprehension. Trooper was our dog but he was always Kesh's first. Her love for him was visible and for me, tangible. She would speak to him, stroke him, look into his eyes and love him. She showed patience with him I was unable to muster. Trooper was with us before we were officially us and Kesh didn't want that to change.
Once Roo was home, I knew. Even before the subsequent episodes...I knew.
The day before all of this, Kesh had warned me it was going to be windy. We live in a town with a name that has an Aboriginal translation for 'windy'. Troop became extremely anxious in the wind, to the point that he would hurt himself from the stress of it all. I decided to go to the vet to try and get something that would help because nothing we'd done had ever had any real impact. My Dad came with me. Strangely, the vet started asking questions that were leading towards other issues - aggression included. I explained Trooper's history and the vet sat quietly, eyes down, for just a moment too long.
I left with a box of something to help Troop relax in the wind and no idea how to make this ok for Kesh...or for me.
We spent the next day calling everyone. The RSPCA, dog rescues, shelters, specialists, everyone. The issue is, once a dog has bitten, it can't be re-homed. We had a dog that had bitten three people. I thought about taking Troop to the RSPCA in the middle of the night and leaving him there, hoping that he would pass their behavioural assessments and have another chance. The thought of him biting someone who didn't know his history and my internal drive for total honesty stopped the thought process in its tracks.
I made one last call to an animal rescue we'd come across at a dog park in Sydney, years earlier. The No Kill Animal Rescue were my last hope. I tried a few times and couldn't get through. About half an hour later, my phone rang. On the other end of the line, I heard a muffled voice ask what they could help me with.
'Are you OK?' I asked.
'I'm really sorry, I've just had to put my dog down and I can't believe it,' she agonised down the phone.
We spoke for twenty minutes or so. Both of us in similar situations with young children and dogs who had bitten and were increasing in their aggression.
I feel as though I experienced a tender mercy that day. To speak to the founder of a group called the No Kill Animal Rescue and to hear of their experience - not a month before, or a week before but minutes ago. I think I was being told this is OK.
I called the vet and made the arrangements. Kesh's parents were with us now and explained that while Kesh's love for animals is an amazing blessing - it's the love for her fellow people, for me and now for Roo that were most important.
I think like me, Kesh had known for a long time. When blood came from our friend's face that terrible night, we knew.
I didn't want Kesh to be there. She packed and so did I. She would drive to Sydney with her parents, while I stayed with Troop and made my way up later in the day. Kesh was worried about me being alone with Troop and then driving up to be with her. For some reason I was strong. For a time, anyway.
I sat with Kesh and before we both left the house, we let Trooper in. He was happy, loving and gentle with Kesh. He nuzzled her and she sat on the floor, crying hard and long tears that hurt my chest and stung my eyes and nose.
I put Trooper in the back of the car and made my way back to the house to hug and kiss Kesh. I told her I loved her and promised her this was the right thing to do. I knew it was but it was so damn hard.
I drove to the beach and let Trooper run. He hadn't run properly in a year and had a freshly operated knee. The damage he did to it on that run would have been massive but it didn't matter. I wanted him to run completely free.
The heavens had opened completely. I stood on the beach, soaked through. The rain pounded us the whole time but I didn't care. If the heavens were open, I knew Troop would get there faster.
I arrived at the vet and waited in the car until they called me in.
'Do you want to stay, or would you prefer to leave Trooper with us?'
'I'll stay,' I said with a crack in my voice.
I was ushered in with Troop who devoured a few liver treats while the next few minutes were explained to me.
I sat on the floor with Troop and patted his head. I looked into his brown eyes that went forever and told him that I loved him. The first injection was administered and I supported Troop as he slowly fell to the floor. He was alive, just unconscious.
I told him that I loved him again and that he was going to be OK.
'Are you ready?' asked the Vet.
I watched as Troop's chest went down and then didn't come back up.
'He's gone,' the Vet said.
I sat there on the floor in that Vet's clinic and held my breath, while I stroked Troop's head. Maybe for a minute, maybe for three - without breathing.
I rushed past the receptionist and into the rain. I slammed the door and sat, still soaking wet. I let myself breathe and it was a breath that went in forever. When I finally breathed out I cried like I never have. I wailed there in my car, knowing that our dog wasn't here with us anymore.
I called my Dad, who loved Trooper and looked after him as a pup when Kesh and I went on our honeymoon. My Dad had spent the morning on the phone, calling about ten different shelters to try and find someone who would take Troop - to no avail.
'He's gone, Dad,' I ached down the phone.
'What do you mean he's gone?' Dad asked not believing what I'd told him. He'd been with me the day before but didn't realise it had already happened.
My Dad just kept saying 'I'm sorry. Tim, I'm so sorry'. Now, it was My Dad was crying those hard tears. I will never forget that phone call. And I'll never forget the feeling of knowing my Dad loved me. He loved me so much that he cried for me, knowing how much Trooper meant to our family.
We stayed in Sydney for about a week. We felt the love of Kesh's family, along with their support, holding us up.
Being there with Trooper was the hardest thing I have ever done in my whole life.
We are close to being at total peace with what has happened and thank you for your sensitivity should you choose to comment.
Trooper was a beautiful dog, who we loved and still love. More than that though, I love Kesh and Roo. I love them more than anything and I always will.
Troop's last run on the beach
Kesh saying goodbye