When Philadelphia-based photographer Kristen Kidd was taking photos of animal shelter employees and adopters, she was amazed by how many people — especially women — shared personal stories of ways their dogs have supported them through life’s highs and lows.
The former social worker was also concerned by how many women ended the story with something like, “I know that makes me crazy for how much I love my dog.”
So Kidd launched the Woman’s Best Friend Project to celebrate and honor the powerful bond between women and dogs. She’s photographed and shared stories from more than 90 women in two books and is currently accepting submissions for a third volume.
“I get the honor of people entrusting their most vulnerable stories and their most powerful moments,” Kidd, 38, told TODAY. “I want for that to be shared with a larger community so that people can see that they’re not alone.”
The stories are often intensely personal. For the second book, a woman named Phyliss revealed her struggle with depression and a suicide attempt. When she came home from the hospital, her dog, Remy, rushed to the car to greet her.
That greeting was the first step in her healing process.
“He was happy that she was there. And if he was happy, then she could do it for him,” Kidd said. “Remy was this bridge for the gap between not wanting to be alive and then wanting to live for herself. And that, I think, is just everything. That is such a perfect descriptor for the power that a dog can have in your life.”
The book also features the bond between a woman named Hannah and her dog, Owen. Hannah was consumed by grief after the death of her mother when she decided the mixed-breed dog rescued from a "deep, dark hole" in Puerto Rico.
“They found each other and were able to really bring each other out of that darkness and out of that hole,” Kidd said. “I felt that was such a beautiful and strong visual of resilience — the resilience of pets, and also the resilience of humans and the resilience that they can experience together when they have each other in their lives.”
The stories in Woman’s Best Friend Project are not just inspiring — they also help dogs. Kidd donates 100% of the proceeds from the books to animal rescue organizations in Pennsylvania.
The first volume, released in 2019, raised over $7,000 for Harley’s Haven Dog Rescue. The second book raised over $10,000 for Brandywine Valley SPCA — which happens to run the shelter where Hannah met Owen.
Proceeds from the third book will benefit Women’s Animal Center, a shelter founded by women in 1869. Kidd is accepting submissions via the project’s website from women who can share a time “when your furry best friend was there for you like no one else.”
The Woman’s Best Friend Project has helped Kidd recognize the special bond she shares with her own rescue dogs, Hudson and Hermanito. They’ve helped buoy her during the pandemic with their unconditional love.
“I know they love me no matter what. I don’t need to be anyone other than who I am for them,” she said. “There’s a tremendous joy and peace in that.”
Kidd looks forward to reading more submissions for the third volume, which she'll accept until May 1 or once she chooses 50 stories about pets, whichever comes first. She’s already received some moving entries, including one shared by a woman named Kira who wrote that her service dogs, Sarabi and Pantone, not only help her medically but were also a great comfort when she says she lost her job a few years ago because of the color of her skin.
“I really, really love creating a space in which people can fully celebrate what matters most to them in their life,” Kidd said. “I always feel tremendously honored to be ushered into that sacred space of what matters most.”