Woman Stages Photoshoots with Pup Cups, Ice Cream for Dogs in Their Final Days of Life (Exclusive)

Mandy Pierce photographs dogs who have terminal illnesses and shares the results on TikTok

<p>Mandy Rae Pierce/Tiktok</p> Mandy Ray Pierce, an end-of-life dog photographer

Mandy Rae Pierce/Tiktok

Mandy Ray Pierce, an end-of-life dog photographer

A North Carolina photographer is going viral for her heartfelt captures of dogs — taken at the end of their lives, so their owner can preserve sacred memories.

Mandy Pierce — a 34-year-old in Elizabeth City, North Carolina — has a day job at an agricultural company. But when she isn’t mixing fertilizer and helping to load seed into customer’s trucks, she’s likely got a camera in her hand.

“I’ve always had a camera, but I didn’t start taking it seriously until about a year ago,” Pierce tells PEOPLE.

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That's when she began a side business shooting lifestyle photography and connected with The Tilly Project, an end-of life pet photography network that provides resources for those grieving the loss of a pet.

As part of the group’s affiliate network, Pierce connects with pet owners whose dogs don’t have much longer to live, offering them discounted rates on photo shoots showcasing their personalities and happy moments.

Related: Dog Owner Details Her Pet's Last Day in Heartbreaking TikTok: '12 Years Wasn't Long Enough'

“I was pretty much just using my camera to take photos of my own dog, and I figured why not offer the same service for those who really need it?” she says.

When pet owners book a session, Pierce has them fill out a questionnaire so she can get to know the dog — their name, their age, their interests and whether they have a terminal diagnosis.

<p>Mandy Rae Pierce/Tiktok</p> Mandy Rae Pierce photography

Mandy Rae Pierce/Tiktok

Mandy Rae Pierce photography

“I like to prepare both the pet owners and myself,” she says, adding that she always suggests a location for the shoot in which the dog is most comfortable, like their own home or a nearby park they love.

“When I get there, I let the owners interact with their pet — I like getting closeup shots of them together as well as all the little details they most want to remember — the big, floppy ears of a hound mix or the paws of a lab,” she says.

And if the dog has a favorite toy, that can be featured, too. “I’ve even had owners bring McDonald’s Happy Meals — one owner put a French fry in her mouth and the dog took it out for the photo.”

<p>Mandy Rae Pierce/Tiktok</p> Mandy Rae Pierce's photo of scout

Mandy Rae Pierce/Tiktok

Mandy Rae Pierce's photo of scout

Ice cream cones, Starbucks pup cups and typically off-limit treats — like chocolate — are also popular. “They get treats they normally couldn’t, because these photos are often taken in their final days,” Pierce says.

The resulting photos have gone viral on TikTok, with users often telling Pierce they’ve cried looking at her photographs.

Related: Mark Wahlberg Has 4 Dogs — Plus a Canine Costar in His New Movie — Even Though He's Allergic (Exclusive)

One particular TikTok video showcases Pierce’s photographs of a 16-year-old labrador retriever named Scout, a rescue who had been placed with a veteran at the age of 2.

“He had been with his owner for 14 years, and he served until the last minute — he was at his owner’s feet when he passed,” Pierce says.

<p>Mandy Rae Pierce/Tiktok</p> Mandy Rae Pierce's photo of Scout, a veteran's service dog, at the end of his life

Mandy Rae Pierce/Tiktok

Mandy Rae Pierce's photo of Scout, a veteran's service dog, at the end of his life

And while she admits she gets emotional editing the end-of-life photos, the shoots themselves, she says, are meant to be fun.

“It’s really a celebration of their lives.”

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