Photos of elderly animals

While we normally think of baby animals as being the principal cuton emitters of the animal kingdom, photographer Isa Leshko's "Elderly Animals" series reveals the beauty revealed by animals at the end of their lives: "I began the series as a means of exploring my feelings about my mother's decline due to Alzheimer's Disease. As I've worked on this project, though, I've come to realize that these images are a testament to survival and endurance. And they raise questions about what it means to be elderly."

Isa Leshko: Elderly Animals (10 photos) (via Kottke)


  1. ‘Cuton emitters’? Someone’s been reading alt.devilbunnies. ;)

    All you need to have cuteness is a natural, honest expression of helplessness. It’s not surprising that we’d see it in babies, the elderly, and the sick. Although the last two categories generally provoke as much pity as they do adoration.

  2. There’s a property not far from us – an old, disused farm – which some kindly souls bought and converted into a shelter for animals nearing the end of their lives. Mostly dogs and cats that people are either too distraught or too hard-hearted to keep around, but a few larger animals like horses and even a llama.
    The horses are particularly heartbreaking. One is a massive, grizzled Percheron that is reputedly close to 30 years old. It’s blind now, and nearly completely deaf, but still loves to be scratched, stroked and fed carrots. It stands outside in its corner of the field in all kinds of weather, usually with its nose into the prevailing wind: our daughter calls it the statue horse, because we always see it standing in the same spot, same position.

  3. I think the site is nearly borked. It’s loading REALLY slowly for me.

    urbanhick, while it’s monstrous of some people to simply chuck their non-human family to the curb when they grow old, it’s wonderful that the sanctuary exists for them. Any of us (of any species) would prefer to grow old in the comfort of the homes we know and the families we grew up with, but at least at the sanctuary there are many other animals to bond with, and there are human caretakers whom I believe the animals understand are doing what they do out of love. At least the poor old things aren’t getting shot, bludgeoned or otherwise “euthanized” as recompense for a lifetime of loyal devotion.

  4. Those pictures made me cry for some reason. They seem very very sad, I’m not sure why. I guess I just hate seeing seemingly infirm or vulnerable animals. I want to cuddle them all.

  5. Thanks so much, Cory, for writing about my elderly animals project today. I’m honored to see my work featured here. Thanks also to folks who commented above and/or have shared links to this piece. I appreciate your encouragement and support for this project.

    Some of these images have made me cry as well. But not all of these images are sad, at least to me. I get chills when I see Blue defiantly staring down the camera and I smile whenever I see Teresa’s image. She is still savoring life.

    I apologize for how slowly PDN’s blog is loading today. Very likely they are getting hit with a lot of requests from this blog. :-)

    If you have trouble loading the PDN article, you can view my work by directly visiting my web site: or Thanks again for your interest in my work!

    @Urbanhick: I would love to know details about the farm you described in your comments. It sounds like the perfect place for me to visit for this project.

    1. I’ll ask the owners if they’re interested. They seem pretty reluctant to have anything to do with publicity, so I’d be surprised: but I’l let you know if they’re interested.

  6. This photo instantly made me cry. I was immediately reminded of Boxer: the hard-working and devoted horse in George Orwell’s novel, Animal Farm. Boxer was sent off to be butchered into horsemeat when he became weak and old after working so hard for the pigs all his life. :(

  7. These images strike a chord with me. Thank you for sharing them.

    My little border collie, Sugar, is getting on in years and now is struggling with lung cancer. But this morning she ran to the door, ears cocked, and then started rapidly circling the room to be let out to confront the Evil Neighbor Dog.

    She’s well over 12, but sometimes she’s 2. That’s the thing about animals, and I saw it in several of these pictures — they aren’t wimps like us. Their character reemerges over and over again, throughout their lives.

    My little girl had half a lung removed on a Tuesday morning, with a suture half way round her body. By Thursday afternoon, she was picking arguments with her brother and racing around like a lunatic. If it were me, I’d still be whining.

    Lately, the chemo gets her down for a week or so, but then she bounces back. I see that in these pics as well. All of them say “I’m not down yet.”

  8. Lovely and well made photographs. As others have said, I can’t help but feel a little sad when looking at them. On some level, I think they remind me of pets and people I have known, who grew old, and eventually died.

  9. I remember going into a pet shop and meeting a rat who was 4 or 5 years old. It was interesting to me because he looked just like a little old man. There was a female about the same age. Sadly, someone stole him a few weeks after I got to hold him.

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