About two months ago, my best friend Nancy told me that she was going to be attending a wedding in August, however this was no ordinary wedding. It was for two therapy dogs who had managed to find love in this crazy world we live in and on Aug. 10 they were going to solidify their love in a formal ceremony complete with a judge, a wedding dress and of course the wedding cake.
I couldn’t help but laugh. Surely, this couldn’t be serious. A dog wedding? And Nancy would be there to help celebrate the nuptials? Or should I say puptials?
It’s not too far-fetched to believe, after all Nancy and I met on Facebook through our love of dogs. I fell in love with the adventures she and her late Golden Retriever, Sawyer, would embark on at local libraries, hospitals and assisted living facilities. They had the hearts to help people and were an exceptional therapy team with PAWS for People, a nonprofit organization that provides certified pet therapy visits to communities in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey.
I couldn’t exactly say I was surprised that Nancy was set to be involved with the wedding. Her nearly three year old black lab and pitbull mix, Emery, was asked to be one of the bride’s “barksmaids” and her nine month old Golden Retriever, Myles Lee, was asked to man the kissing booth. He certainly can’t hold his licker so the kissing booth was the perfect spot for the energetic pup.
“Aww that sounds so cute! It would be so cool if I could be one of the photographers,” I joked with Nancy.
“So why don’t you come up?” she asked.
Suddenly it wasn’t a joke anymore. Now it was an open invitation to go to Pennsylvania, spend some time with my best friend and see what all the bark was about with this wedding.
Without giving it much thought, I took out that handy dandy credit card and bought my plane ticket, nevermind the fact that I would have to fly to Pennsylvania by myself.
It’s something I’d never done before. I didn’t even attempt to face my fear of flying until last summer let alone try to navigate the terror that is Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport without the assistance of my husband.
I thought to myself “Man, I must really love this woman to get myself on a plane to attend a dog wedding.”
But it seemed like a pretty fitting scenario. We’d been friends for a couple years through social media, but we hadn’t met in person until two days before my wedding last November when she flew to Atlanta by herself to meet me in person. It only seemed right to return the favor.
Once in Pennsylvania, we had to determine what exactly should we even wear for a dog wedding. I know how you’re supposed to dress for a human wedding, but do the same rules apply for a dog wedding? Certainly wearing white is still taboo, but what about red? After all, dogs are colorblind.
Nancy and I went shopping to find the perfect dresses for an outdoor ceremony and reception for a lovely pair of pooches.
As we prepared for our Saturday shenanigans, the mother of the bride, Kathryn Meloni, put us at ease by saying the wedding guests’ dress code was casual and gave us the option of wearing our comfy shirts and shorts, since the outing would be probably very hot. Only the pups were adorned with purple bowties for the boys and purple necklaces for the girls.
On the big day, we piled into Nancy’s Jeep not knowing what exactly to expect when we arrived at Rose Tree Park in Media, Pennsylvania.
Even though we got there an hour before the ceremony was set to commence, the parking lot of this park with giant trees and rolling green fields was getting close to full.
Food trucks serving crab cakes and specialty tacos sat at the entrance. Booth after booth of vendors were lined up on the shady sidewalks selling anything from chicken and waffles to handmade bowties for dogs to necklaces to wreaths.
Big dogs, small dogs, old dogs, young dogs, long hair dogs, short hair dogs – all kinds of dogs and their owners came out for the big day.
It was truly hard to believe just how big this event was.
“All of this for a dog wedding?” I thought to myself as I watched hundreds of attendees walk through the vendors with their pooches.
It turns out that this event had grown quite a bit since Kathryn first had the idea.
Kathryn’s lovable little white Maltese-Yorkie-Cairn mix, Frangelica, was head over paws in love with her fellow therapy dog, Shaggydog Stark, a Great Pyrenees who resembled a fluffy cloud with a happy grin.
She wanted to do something special for the two pups as well as bring awareness to the program that brought them together.
Frangelica and Shaggydog met through their participation in PAWS for People, helping to bring smiles to children reading at libraries and the elderly in assisted living facilities.
Since there was something magical about these pooches, Kathryn wanted to organize a fun event that would bring the community together to celebrate not only her pup, but all the animals that do their part to help others.
What Nancy and I thought would be a small ceremony for Frangelica and Shaggydog with maybe 30 friends and family in attendance was actually a hefty sized festival with more than 50 vendors and several hundred guests that came to support PAWS for People.
Prior to the wedding festivities, the festival had already generated $5,000 for the nonprofit. Each vendor donated a portion of their sales to the charity as well and days later fundraising efforts are still continuing to come in.
At noon, the groomsdogs and barksmaids lined up and walked down the white lace aisle to an archway adorned with purple flowers as a three piece orchestra played in the background. Frangelica looked angelic in her little white wedding dress while Shaggydog looked dapper in his black bowtie.
The officiant, Judge Nathaniel Nichols, took a moment to celebrate his 45th wedding anniversary with his wife, Shelley, in front of hundreds of people. After the pups barked their “I do’s” he got down on one knee and proposed to his wife as the crowd cheered in delight.
What Nancy and I thought would be a simple and fun gathering for close friends turned out to be so much more. It was a day filled with love and friendship on a larger scale than we imagined.
We sat in the shade with the pups, listening to Nancy’s husband, Rick, play an acoustic set. We manned the kissing booth where Myles Lee was handing out smooches. I met many new friends along the way and even tried an Asian style crab cake sandwich.
With sunny blue skies peeking through the trees and a light breeze and the soft sound of wagging tails, it was a perfect day to celebrate the love of dogs. I am so grateful that Nancy and Rick opened their home to me and for Frangelica and Shaggydog Stark for letting me be part of their big day.
More photos from the happy pups' celebration can be found at: www.facebook.com/rockbottomridgepack
Jessica Taylor is the features reporter for Dawson County News. Her columns will appear periodically.