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Fashion lensman Sean Ellis has worked for the legendary Nick Knight and shot for the now-defunct London tastemaking magazine The Face and as many Vogues as you can name, but Ellis' newly-released book, Kubrick the Dog probably contains his most heartwarming (and heartbreaking) collection of photographs to date.
In 1998, Ellis had already achieved wild success as a young photographer and had even made a film short that was later nominated for an Academy Award. That's when he decided he needed someone else in his life—"To be at that level in fashion can make you selfish," he told the Sunday Times. "I wanted something to save me from thinking only about myself and work. I wanted a dog."
So he went to a breeder and adopted Kubrick, a Hungarian Viszla puppy. On the first night, "I made the mistake of putting him in my bed," Ellis said. "Of course, he stopped crying and that was it for eight years. I had to get a very big bed. He liked to spoon. He'd make a big end-of-the-day noisy sigh, put his head on the pillow and go to sleep."
Ellis and Kubrick became great pals. "He was a 'little bugger', as my mum says." Kubrick became a vital accessory to Ellis' career. "A dog on set calms things down—well, apart from the odd occasion when he would jump on the table and eat lunch. I never used him as a prop. He was a poseur, though. He knew the protocol in front of the camera, knew to sit still until he was released."Years down the line, when Kubrick was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer, and had tumors removed from his tongue and paw, doctors gave him only three months to live.
Kubrick went on to live another 18 months, when he began slowing down and sleeping downstairs. "Kublick had a good mind and a strong heart," Ellis said. "He was still having fun and playing. But I knew there was going to be a time when the pain would be too much and I'd have to make a decision, and that day was coming."
When that day came, Ellis gave him a sausage. "Chomp, chomp, it was gone," he recounts with an affectionate laugh. "We took him over to the fire in my sister's garden, wrapped him in a blanket and he lay down his head. The last bit is still very raw. To have my best friend lying in my arms like a rag doll... I don't remember much, just the pain of it.· Dog days [Sunday Times]
"My brother-in-law made him a beautiful coffin. We filled it with his bed, his lead, his favourite toys. There's no gravestone. We just planted a blossom tree."
· Kubrick the Dog [Amazon]