Dogs have been loved by humans for centuries and while we’ve all heard the saying, “man’s best friend,” dogs’ bonds with women are as equally strong. In addition to being constant companions, dogs provide an emotional connection that at times rivals the ones we have with other humans.
And that is the premise behind the Women’s Best Friend Project, created by Philadelphia-based photographer Kristen Kidd. The coffee table books celebrate the unique ways in which dogs provide emotional support to women in a way a human cannot.
The idea for the book came about when Kidd, a former social worker, was photographing hard-to-adopt pets for a local rescue group. Sitting across from other women who were sharing poignant and amazing stories about how their dogs were there for them during their greatest joys as well as most vulnerable moments inspired Kidd to create something that celebrated these extraordinary bonds.
“As I heard these stories over and over, I knew there was something really important about sharing them while also celebrating the powerful role dogs have in our lives,” explains Kidd.
As a pet mom to two rescues, the experience of photographing the women and sharing their stories left an indelible mark. Having gone through a dark period herself, Kidd pays homage to her dogs as the strength that helped her through tough times.
“They don’t want or expect anything from me,” she said. “And when you’re feeling at a low point, that is a tremendous gift, knowing you’re simply accepted and fully appreciated for who you are as you are.”
Within the pages of each volume are distinctive and powerful stories alongside poignant photographs that capture the women’s connections to their dogs.
“The women who participate receive the same experience as anyone who walks through our studio doors,” explains Kidd. “Understanding what’s important and interviewing them fully prepares me, even before I pick up my camera, to know what it is that matters most to them and capture it.”
Kidd has also taken things a step further by donating all of the proceeds to a different local rescue group for each book published. The first volume, which came out in 2019, raised over $7,000 for Harley’s Haven, a local rescue outside of Philadelphia.
The second volume raised over $10,000 for Brandywine Valley SPCA.
Currently working on the third edition, all proceeds will be donated to the Women’s Animal Center. Founded by women in 1869, it was America’s first animal shelter and adoptions program, making Kidd’s decision to partner together a simple one. Slated for release at the end of this year, and just in time for the holidays, submissions are still being accepted.
“As much as the book is about celebrating our bonds with our dogs, there’s a really important element of eradicating stigmas associated with the human experience,” points out Kidd. “These women are sharing stories of their most vulnerable experiences and we can really learn from each other.”
Angelina Worman, a dog trainer who lives outside of the Philadelphia area, is featured in the third edition and credits her dog Kenzo, a 4-year-old Belgian Malinos, for recently helping her get through what she said was one of the darkest times in her life.
Diagnosed with stage 3a colon cancer in April 2020, Worman described going through chemotherapy and radiation while homeschooling her son during the pandemic as “a bit crazy.” But on those days, Kenzo, the “guardian” of the family, was right there beside her.
“He’d lay with me on the couch and if the other dogs came over, Kenzo gave them a look like, ‘Now is not the time to bother mom,'” shares Worman. “It’s like he knew I didn’t feel good, and since I’ve gotten better he hasn’t been attached to my side all of the time.”
Worman knows just how amazing dogs can be, she’s the owner of four, including Kenzo. It was part of the reason why she wanted to be a part of the project.
“I wanted to share just how much he’s meant to me during all of this and to shed light on the fact that if you think something isn’t right, see your doctor,” she explains. “Had I gone sooner, I could have gotten away with just having surgery and not chemo and radiation?”
Grateful for her son and her dogs, the young mother credits them for helping her remain strong. “I feel for people who don’t have anyone, like a dog, to help them through something like this because it can make a huge difference.”
When it comes to relying on our dogs for strength, Philadelphia resident Danielle Lespinasse, who is also a part of the third book, knows just how powerful her dog’s love is.
As a psychologist, there are often times when work becomes heavy, but Mico, a bull terrier, and basenji mix, is the best remedy at the end of the day.
“I adopted Mico in my first year of graduate school,” says Lespinasse. “As a psychologist, I talk to people about difficult topics and sometimes I bring that home with me. Mico has been that constant companion I can come home to talk to or cry to.”
A rescue pup from Haile’s Angels Rescue in Gainesville, Florida, said their first meeting was “love at first sight,” hence, the name Mico — short for “mi corazon,” or “my heart” in Spanish.
“Sometimes it’s hard for me to tell who’s taking care of who,” Lespinasse said. “Mico thinks I’m her baby; she checks in on me and when I’m not feeling well, she’s the first to know and acknowledge it.”
Mico, whio is now 11 1/2 years old, is at the age where a dog owner’s worst thought is that their canine companion won’t be here forever. But thanks to Kidd and her artwork participants receive as part of the project, Lespinasse is grateful she’ll be able to carry Mico with her going forward for the rest of her life.
Lindsey King has given two rescue dogs a new lease on life. Adopted from the Pennsylvania SPCA, Roman, a boxer, and Doug, a Weimmerainer are survivors of animal cruelty.
Roman first came into King’s life right after college and through their union, she became connected to the shelter. “I work with them often and the group does amazing work,” said King.
Before the pandemic hit, the licensed therapist was also working at a dog-training facility and credits the experience for giving her the courage to welcome Doug into her life.
Seized for medical neglect and poor living conditions, Lindsey describes him as being shut down and scared of everything when the two first met. “He’s now the happiest dog and I’m proud of the work I’ve done with both of them, they’re the best.”
Having two dogs is double the love and each one enriches her life in their own way. “Roman and I have our own little language,” said Lindsay. “And Doug is goofy and light-hearted, and reminds me every day to forgive people in their wrongdoings because he had some horrible things done to him and he’s just as happy as can be.”
Through all of the stories Kidd has shared across each volume, her hope remains the same: that people feel less isolated and alone. And she’s doing her part to bring out the best in each and every one of the women and their dogs.
(Source: Goodmorningamerica.com, Not edited by DogExpress staff)