updated 07/15/2014 AT 3:15 PM ET
•originally published 07/15/2014 AT 2:45 PM ET
Every dog must have his day. For one black Lab, that day turned out to be his last.
When the Roberts family found out they’d have to put their dog Duke down, they decided to make his final day the best one yet, complete with burgers, a trip to the park and more snuggles than any dog could ask for.
The Robertses had adopted Duke three years ago, knowing he had terminal cancer. When the time came to say goodbye for good, they asked their family friend Robyn Arouty, a photographer who specializes in animal portraits, to create an unforgettable experience for Duke’s last day.
A former psychotherapist, Arouty has often been asked to capture the final moments of a beloved pet. In 2011, she photographed a Rottweiler named Max as he passed away surrounded by his loving owners.
In a short essay titled “What I Learned About Doggy Death,” Arouty wrote that “Letting them go when it’s time is the most selfless thing you can do.”
Now that Duke’s story has gone viral, she says, pet owners are getting in touch with her to tell their own stories of saying goodbye.
“We didn’t realize it at the time, of course, but Dukey’s story has created this beautiful forum for people to share stories of their beloved pets who have passed away,” Arouty told The Huffington Post. “Photographing [and] documenting Duke that day has really empowered people to find a way to cope and ease the pain of letting a pet go by celebrating [them] while they are still here.”
See Duke’s final journey, below. The text was written by Arouty in the voice of Duke.
"I Died Today" by Duke Roberts
And I laughed.
We told jokes.
We were serious.
While we were waiting for the vet to come, Kristen [my groomer] said we were going for a walk. Then someone said, "How about a play in the water at the splash park down the street?" So off we went!
"You know I’m going to miss you, right?"
We smiled today.
I listened to the kids play off in the distance. And thought about my two babies at home. I loved protecting them.
I relaxed today.
I felt no pain. Even though the tumor grew so big.
Well, I didn’t say goodbye. I said ‘til we meet again.