A bride will never forget the gift she received from her beloved dog on her wedding day.
Almost fifteen years ago, a 12-week-old puppy was found abandoned in a shopping cart. He was then taken to a local animal shelter, where a 19-year-old veterinary student named Kelly O’Connell was working at the time. The two immediately became best friends and she named it “Charlie Bear”.
For the next decade and a half, the puppy remained steadfast in O’Connell’s side, even on her wedding day when it was stricken with ᴄᴀɴᴄᴇʀ. The bride’s pet of 15 years, who was terminally ill at the time of the ceremony, mustered enough energy to play a special role in the celebration before her death.
Dziuvenis has been open about Charlie Bear’s role in the wedding ceremony. “I didn’t know he would be there, but I’m not surprised at all,” said the photographer. “In retrospect, it would be more surprising if Kelly and James didn’t have a dog at their wedding! The bride and groom are both veterinarians and between the two of them have five dogs – four now Charlie is gone.”
Then, last spring, the dog was diagnosed with a brain tumor after having a seizure while walking. After the diagnosis, Charlie Bear’s health began to rapidly decline. O’Connell worried that her 15-year-old pet wouldn’t live long enough to attend the wedding, but Charlie Bear held the ceremony on September 1.
Touching images from the ceremony showed the ailing dog greeting its mother in front of the altar. The new bride told BuzzFeed: “James and I grabbed him, and we kept saying, ‘You did it, buddy, you did it’.
Although Charlie Bear’s walk down the aisle was unsupported, he was too tired to return from the wedding ceremony, so O’Connell’s bridesmaids and sister, Katie Lloyd, carried him. 80-pound dog instead.
“This is one of the most close-knit, animal-loving families I have ever met,” says DDziuvenis. “I expect nothing more from Katie than to pick up her sister’s dog and carry it up the aisle if it can’t do it on its own.”
The photographer recalls capturing that sweet walk was “an unbelievable moment but also very challenging”. This is going to be the story of this wedding and I have to document it. But it was hard, because it was so emotional. We lost our very own black lab a few months ago, so this is really impressive. I had to keep shooting while trying not to let my camera cry. I am so grateful to have been able to take these pictures for them and I was able to do justice to this moment.
The festivities after the ceremony were also very emotional. “I cried too! This is my real moment. As soon as Katie put Charlie down after the reception, everyone gathered around them. The bride just kissed him, stroked his face and said, ‘You did it, Charlie. You are here, buddy! You are here. ‘ Repeat.
O’Connell told BuzzFeed she could “see it in his eyes” that Charlie Bear was pulling her to marry Garvin. She said: “I see his face in these pictures of how happy he looks. “He was literally laughing.”
On September 9, just over a week after the wedding, O’Connell’s companion dog was put to sleep at home in front of the fireplace. According to BuzzFeed, he passed away peacefully surrounded by his family.