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Woman says goodbye to her beloved family dog and best friend with moving photo tribute

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A quick poll of the Stylist office reveals we all had beloved childhood pets.

From Pod the elusive gerbil to Tipsy the lovable guinea pig and Sandra the tabby cat (yes really), these were the animals we grew up with. They were our buddies, our protectors and our constant companions. They were also the source of unwarranted levels of juvenile affection - they nobly endured our many enthusiastic games, too-tight cuddles and sloppy kisses.

For Maria Sharp, a 23-year-old photographer from Cleveland, that childhood pal was Chubby, the dog her family adopted from a nearby pound when she was just seven years old.

As Maria explains, "Chubby was my sister, my best friend, and companion. We were two peas in a pod. We got Chubby sixteen years ago, when I was 7 years old. She was only 6 weeks old."

Dog

Maria got Chubby at the age of seven and she was a constant companion during her childhood

Chubby recently fell ill and spent the nights walking anxiously in circles, forgetting where she was going. "It was heart-breaking to watch," says Maria.

She was diagnosed with cognitive dysfunction (a kind of Alzheimer's disease for dogs) and as her condition deteriorated, her family made the tough decision to put her down.

Before she said goodbye, however, wedding photographer Maria decided to create a photo shoot in tribute to her long-time companion. She commissioned fellow photographer and dog lover Suzanne Price to create a heart-warming farewell photo shoot of her and Chubby that would pay tribute to her playful, loyal and loving nature. 

Suzanne shot a series of loving portraits which Maria combined with older photos to create a narrative that clearly documented her and Chubby's 16-year friendship. 

"Being a photographer myself, I knew how important it was to capture time spent with love ones and preserve memories. Since I knew Chubby's time was coming I decided to contact Suzanne," says Maria. 

"Suzanne did an excellent job capturing our relationship and I'm eternally grateful."

Childhood dog

Chubby was there for all the important occasions, including birthdays and Christmases

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Wherever Maria went, Chubby was by her side

"Being the impatient seven year old that I was I would wake her up from her puppy naps so we could play," Maria recalls. "I just wanted someone to enjoy life with. I keep catching myself using human pronouns. Chubby isn't just a dog. She's my longest and best friend."

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"Chubby isn't just a dog. She's my longest and best friend" says Maria

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Chubby was right at the heart of family life

Maria wrote about Chubby's deterioration in her blog: "She would stay up for most of the night, getting super anxious and walking around in circles, forgetting where she was going. It was heart breaking to watch.

"A week ago, she started vomiting and stopped eating all together. She got some medicine to help with the nausea but that didn't seem to work. Between her anxiety and vomiting, she was up all night. 

"They could try and give us medicine but that was not guaranteed to help. By this point she was on her third day of no food. We made the decision to let her go on Monday. I'm writing this while she's still alive because I know if I were to wait until after she was gone my brain would be mush and I wouldn't be able to type through my tears."

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Maria commissioned a special photo shoot in the last few weeks of Chubby's life to remember her by

"Chubby was always super energetic, playful, loyal, and loving," says Maria. 

"Chubby rarely played with toys but she loved jumping up on the furniture. One day she got so excited she started leaping from our love seat to the couch (it wasn't a far distance). She kept missing but didn't give up until she finally landed the jump." 

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The shoot, by fellow photographer and dog lover Suzanne Price, means Maria will always have something to remember Chubby by

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Photos: Maria Sharp/Rex Features. and Suzanne Price/Suzuran Photos

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