Photo by Jennifer Dziuvenis via Facebook: jendzphotography
An ailing 15-year-old family dog was carried down the aisle by a maid of honor during a tearful wedding ceremony last month.
Charlie Bear was the beloved dog of the bride, Kelly O’Connell. She first met Charlie while working at a local animal shelter at the age of 19. She wasn’t looking for a dog at the time, but when O’Connell saw the 12-week-old black Lab mix, she knew he was the dog for her.
“I wasn’t looking for a dog. I was still 19, living with my parents and going to college. It was the worst time in my life to get a dog. [Then Charlie] came in, and I was like, ‘Yup. I’m taking this puppy home,’” O’Connell told BuzzFeed News.
From that point on, the two became inseparable, and Charlie remained with O’Connell while she went to school to become a veterinarian.
About eight years after taking in Charlie Bear, O’Connell met James Garvin, a fellow veterinarian and the man who would eventually become her husband. Fortunately, Garvin seemed to love dogs as much as O’Connell, and Charlie gained a number of canine siblings over the years as their relationship grew.
Sadly, last April O’Connell and Garvin learned that Charlie Bear, now 15 years old, had developed a brain tumor, and he didn’t have much time left.
When the pair planned their September 9th wedding, they knew that Charlie Bear, the dog that had been with them since the beginning of their relationship, had to be a part of it.
Charlie Bear seemed to be in high spirits on the day of the wedding. He frolicked around the outdoor area where the ceremony was to take place and even played with some of the children. When the ceremony began, he walked down the aisle with the other members of the bridal party unassisted. However, once the vows had been exchanged and it was time to walk back, he couldn’t seem to get up on his own.
When she saw the difficulty Charlie was having, Katie Lloyd, O’Connell’s sister and maid of honor, decided to take matters into her own hands. She lifted all 80 pounds of Charlie Bear into her arms, and they traveled back down the aisle together.
"James and I dropped to our knees and started crying," O’Connell said, recalling the scene.
As the bride and groom kneeled beside Charlie, many of those in attendance joined them in their tears and celebration. Against the odds, Charlie, the dog that had been with them since the beginning, held on long enough to be a part of that special day. He had made it.
Sadly, Charlie only lived a little more than a week following the wedding. But when he passed, he was in a comfortable place surrounded by loved ones, and in their hearts he lives on.