‘Remember Me As Sunshine’: La Jollan creates book of photos and poems as a love letter to dogs
Bird Rock resident Jacqueline Lemieux-Bokor has wanted to create a tribute since the loss of her beloved Boris in 1999.
It’s been 24 years since Jacqueline Lemieux-Bokor’s beloved dog lost his life while helping to save hers.
All that time, the Bird Rock resident has wanted to create a tribute — a love letter to all dogs and the joy they bring. But the loss of her companion was so “beyond heartbreaking” that she only recently felt able to do so.
For the record:
6:04 p.m. May 1, 2023This article was updated with additional information and to correct the year of Jacqueline Lemieux-Bokor’s marriage.
The result is a book of photos and poetry called “Remember Me As Sunshine.”
“It’s such an honor to have time in your life with a pet and it becomes a mirror for your life,” Lemieux-Bokor said. “This book is a tribute for all dogs, so I wanted to make it as beautiful as I could so it felt worthy of the love of a dog.”
The pages are filled with photos of older dogs, many from the Bird Rock area, on colorful pages with accents of flowers, rocks and butterflies “that you would find on a walk with your dog.” There also are poems written by Lemieux-Bokor meant to be sentiments from the dogs.
And on the cover is a photo of Boris, the dog who inspired it all.
“When my husband and I first got married in 1990, we joked that our first child would be named Boris after [tennis player] Boris Becker,” said Lemieux-Bokor, who at the time was living on the East Coast.
Before having children, the two considered getting a dog, but Lemieux-Bokor’s allergies limited the type they could consider. But one day in 1992, she was reading a newspaper and saw short-haired puppies were available for sale in her area.
“We got there and the woman said all the dogs were show dogs except one, and since we were just looking for a pet, we asked to see it,” Lemieux-Bokor said. “She came back out with this chubby puppy and said, ‘This is Boris.’ We gasped and said, ‘This is the dog our family was meant to have.’ So we took him home.”
“This book is a tribute for all dogs, so I wanted to make it as beautiful as I could so it felt worthy of the love of a dog.”
— Jacqueline Lemieux-Bokor
Seven “joyful, grateful” years later, the family — which by then included a daughter — was renovating a house when a fire broke out during the night, Lemieux-Bokor said.
Boris — a Vizsla, a Hungarian hunting breed — “was barking by our bed and growling in a way he had never done before,” she said. “It was disorienting; something didn’t seem right. So my husband followed him and when he saw there was a fire, he grabbed our daughter and I grabbed the phone and Boris. We couldn’t see or breathe at that point. I thought this was the end for me. Every step felt like 100, but I reached down and knew Boris was near me. We ran down the stairs and made it to the door … but Boris ran back into the house.”
Boris was lost in the fire. “It was such a loss,” Lemieux-Bokor said. “He saved our lives.”
While most of the family’s possessions and photos also were lost, one roll of black and white film survived. On it were photos of Boris.
The family moved to La Jolla’s Bird Rock in 2017 and got a new dog named Otis, a German shorthair pointer/Lab mix. On walks with Otis, Lemieux-Bokor met her neighbors and created a community.
“It was how I met people,” she said. “I needed that because I didn’t know anyone and was homesick for the East Coast, where all my friends and family were.”
While on a walk, she met a dog that was in a new home after its owner died. Lemieux-Bokor asked if she could take the dog’s photo and the idea for “Remember Me As Sunshine” was born.
“All these dogs are part of this community and every dog has a story,” she said. “One dog is from where I get my car fixed. Most of them are old dogs and some have passed since I photographed them. [Otis died at age 13½.] There is a real range. I thought this could be a way to focus on their beauty and honor their spirit. Our dogs save us in so many ways and are such a gift to us.“
Lemieux-Bokor said she also wants the book to “make people smile and feel comfort when they hold it.” The back of the book provides a space for readers to write their own stories and memories.
The book is available through the website remembermeassunshine.com and at pop-ups in the area, such as at the La Jolla Open Aire Market.
During May, a donation will be made to the San Diego Humane Society for every book sold. Lemieux-Bokor will be at the Humane Society’s Walk for Animals on Saturday, May 6, at Liberty Station in Point Loma. ◆