The Hardest Day

The Hardest Day is a film that explores the intimacy of the human-animal bond - specifically, the last moments before, and after, the passing of a pet at home with their owner.

Friends in social media feeds post memorials of their beloved pets almost weekly, often in the most heart-wrenching of tributes. It is a somber, and intense, testimony to the bond and the pain that comes when it is broken. And yet, it’s a moment that is rarely documented.

This film examines the intense last moments shared between people and their pets. The decision to have at-home pet euthanasia is part of an emerging trend (to have end of life care in the home, instead of in a clinic). Nationally, tens of thousands of pet owners go through this painful experience each year. This project lends insight into this intense bond between humans and their beloved pets. It also examines the remarkable love that wraps around the community, while wrestling with the universal notion of loss. The acts of kindness from the vets, and support staff are also documented in ways unseen before.

A cornerstone idea of the film is this - we want people going through the unseen traumatic experiences of loss with their pets to know they’re not alone. All too often, people are dismissive of the pain that accompanies this loss. This project lends insight into this intense bond, and why we feel as connected.

  • Ross Taylor
  • Ross Taylor and Luke Rafferty
  • Luke Rafferty and Ross Taylor
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Drama, Animal, Friendship, Relationship, Documentary, Pet, Loss, Love, Animals
  • Runtime:
    53 minutes 47 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    August 1, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    5,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Ross Taylor

ROSS TAYLOR is an assistant professor at the University of Colorado Boulder. While at CU Boulder he has been one of two faculty fellows in the Center for Western Civilization, Thought and Policy. Previously, he was a visiting professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the inaugural fellow with the Multimedia Photography and Design Department at Syracuse University.

The photographic portion of the film project has been published worldwide, seen by millions of people. Publications include: The Washington Post, People Magazine, The Daily Mail, BuzzFeed and industry publications such as PetaPixel, FStoppers and Psychology Today. In the spring of 2019, Taylor spoke at TEDxCU about the project.

Taylor has won numerous national and international awards, including Photojournalist of the Year (Large Markets). He’s also been named Northern Photographer of the Year, Virginia Photographer of the Year and North Carolina Photographer of the Year (twice). His work in a trauma hospital in Afghanistan was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

His website is here: His email is:

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Director Statement

When someone’s pet dies, many might think - it’s just a dog. Or, it’s just a cat. I can speak from experience that it’s not. My interest in this began a couple of years ago. A friend of mine was agonizing over the death of her dog. She decided to have her pet euthanized at home. She didn’t want the animal to be stressed by a visit to the clinic, and thought it would be easier on her dog. At the same time, friends in my social media feeds were posting memorials of their beloved pets almost weekly - in the most heart-wrenching of tributes. They were somber and beautiful testimonies to the bond, and the pain that comes when broken. Yet, it’s rarely documented.

I, along with former student Luke Rafferty, wanted to make a film that explored the intensity of the last moments of the bond, and the veterinarians (and support staff) who assist families during this difficult time. It’s here that I’ve witnessed the greatest empathy so far. It’s also crystallized the notion that people, even in the most difficult of situations, want to share their story. At root, we don’t want to feel alone in our grief.