I may have met many of my friends through running but we are all so much more than runners. For me I am among other things a photographer. One of my friends I’ve met through running works in one of the most challenging fields you can, mental health. She puts on what I consider a very important community event. This year I was fortunate enough to be a part of this event again. I am always happy to find ways to use my talents to support our local community.
Walk a Mile in my Shoes is a community wide suicide awareness event held in Elmira, NY. This year was the 13th year this event has been held. Over 2,000 people attended this event to show their support for suicide prevention and awareness.
This is a truly moving event to be part of. Seeing so many people coming together to recognize the importance of such an important issue. So many people are affected by issues surrounding mental health either directly or indirectly. I am sure we all know someone who has experienced difficulties with mental health, and maybe we don’t even know that we do. This community event helps to show that there are people out there that support anyone who is experiencing difficulties with mental health.
Community events like Walk A Mile In My Shoes will help to break the stigma that unfortunately continues to exist around mental health. Mental health is something we need to talk about all the time. It is something that we need to make easy to discuss. That way when people struggle they can easily come forward and receive the help they need. It is sad that it often takes an act of courage to come forward to address mental health issues because of the way our society can treat those who are suffering the most.
I have learned a lot from people who have worked in fields related to mental health and from those who struggle with mental health.
Mental Health is a difficult subject to talk about. Despite my years of study and times spent with others on the front lines it really doesn’t seem to get easier.
I usually consider myself a pretty good writer and think that I can find the words I want especially regarding topics that are important to me or that I am knowledgeable and this is both. But still the right words are not there to convey the importance of this topic and the importance of this event to our community.
This event is simply a powerful and emotional experience. To see so many people come together who have shared perspective. People who have shared experiences. People who know how important just that one word or just that one person for support is. It is truly moving.
I am glad we have people in our community who know the importance of mental health and people who show up to support mental health awareness.
I feel like all the dogs we have had have brought something new into our lives. They have each had their own purpose. Buck and his sister Cami were our introduction to the world of Berners. Through them we have discovered so many wonderful things. We started going to dog shows because of them and that lead to some great days even when we didn’t have them with us.
In 2008 we attended our first dog show to see the Bernese Mountain Dogs. We have attended dog shows regularly ever since.
I have taken 45,000 photos of dogs at dog shows because of these amazing dogs that entered my life. I have all of these amazing memories thanks to them. I would have never went there and done that without them. They have helped make me the person I am today.
Buck Loved people!!!!!!!
I on the other hand, not so much. I have always been an introvert. I never want to talk to people I don’t know and I don’t like to be in large groups. I never just walk up to someone to ask them a question or strike up a conversation. I am uncomfortable in most social situations. If I go to a party or gathering I literally pray that there will be a dog for me to pet so I will feel more comfortable.
Buck did not allow me to sit back and stay in my shell. Buck drew people in. People saw Buck and were drawn to him, and that meant they were drawn to me. Buck was always so happy to see people and have them approach us and say hi. He wanted to be everyone’s best friend. People often stopped to see him and talk to me about him and dogs. Having the conversation be about my dogs and dogs in general makes it easier for me to talk to people. I love my dogs and I enjoy talking to people about my dogs and their dogs.
It is impossible to take Buck somewhere without people stopping to say hi, so I have had lots of practice getting outside my comfort zone. If we go to the park people stop to pet him and visit. Driving in the car people smile and laugh at his antics. He livens up the day at any drive through window we have to stop at and brightens up the day for the employees.
When we started going to dog shows to see other Bernese Mountains Dogs like ours it opened up a whole new world for us. Buck allowed us to meet other people who shared our passion for Bernese Mountain Dogs. Even if I went to dog shows alone I would never have dared to approach anyone, but Buck was a conversation starter. It was always all about Buck. We met a dog who competed at Westminster after we met him. We met local breeders of Bernese Mountain Dogs. We went to a gathering of people all who had Bernese Mountain Dogs. I met and became friends with a woman who showed her dogs at one of our regions biggest dog shows. Her dogs are so fabulous. She asked me to photograph her and her dog. At our most recent trip to a dog show we met several members of our regional Bernese Mountain Dog Club and had lunch with them at the dog show. Buck never cared about what was going on as long as he could see people.
The more obvious it became that Buck thrived on meeting people the more we tried to take him to where the people would be. We took him to community events where he would always draw a crowd. It was like he had his own fan club.
Walking down the street with Buck at a community event was slow going because so many people wanted to see him and he wanted to see so many people. He snuggled up against everyone and solicited their touch. Buck was just that bighearted dog that made everyone smile and laugh. Buck loved events on market street in Corning. We would take him and he would stroll down the street just looking for the next person to pet him. His favorite event was probably Sparkle. There was just so many people. It was constant human contact. Pretty much heaven on earth for Buck.
I never imagined that Buck being at community events had much of an impact other than just for us and for him. but this past Christmas season we went to Sparkle and he wasn’t well enough to go with us, so we took our other Bernese Mountain Dogs. As we were walking around we ran into some people and they asked us about Buck. They said they were going to be looking to see if he was here at Sparkle this year. So maybe Buck touched more lives than just ours out there. Maybe there are many more people than I could image out there with memories of him keeping him alive.
As Buck got older and couldn’t get around as well as he used to, we desperately sought a way to keep getting him out into the public he loved so much. We knew that even though he couldn’t walk much he would still want to see people. We finally found a garden wagon that was big enough for him. It would take to cars to take him places but it was well worth it to see him happy out in public meeting people. We were able to take him out several times using this wagon.
After Buck’s accident and injuries we were reluctant to take him out even in the cart because we didn’t know how that would affect his leg. When Buck had to go to Ithaca for vet rechecks I made it a point to stop at the park and hang out with him so he could have some time outside. He always loved to go out and do stuff and I wanted him to get as much of that as he could even when recovering. At his last vet recheck the vet said he was really happy with the range of motion in his leg and that it looked like his fractures were well healed. The next day Buck had an acupuncture appointment. He did so well getting around despite his bad leg and was so happy. We decided that since he was doing so well it was a good day to take him to the park. We went home and got his wagon and his sister Kira and we went to Eldridge Park. Buck was so happy riding around in his wagon. We all sat at the pavilion and enjoyed the day for a while. I can’t help but think that there was a reason we took him there that day. It was his last happy day with us. Three days later he was gone.
Photographer: Kyle Reynolds Subject: Location: Date Taken:
Photographer: Kyle Reynolds Subject: Location: Date Taken: