When Kelly O’Connell was 19 she adopted a 12-week-old puppy from a shelter.
Charlie Bear, a black lab mix, had been found in a shopping cart in the middle of winter.
O’Connell, who was living in New York State at the time, says she wasn’t looking to adopt a dog but then she saw Charlie.
“It was just kind of like, yeah he’s mine,” O’Connell told the Washington Post.
Charlie stayed with O’Connell as the years went by. O’Connell moved to Colorado and eventually met James Garvin, a veterinarian like Kelly.
When Kelly and James got married this September they wanted Charlie to be at the wedding.
But they were afraid that Charlie wouldn’t make it. The dog, who was 15 years old, was diagnosed with a brain tumor earlier this year and as his condition deteriorated, they knew he wouldn’t be around for much longer.
“I had actually made an appointment for somebody to come to the house and we were going to put him down a week before the wedding, because he had had five seizures and we were just like ‘this is too much, I don’t want to do this for him anymore,'” O’Connell said. “Eventually, it was almost as if he was like ‘no I want to see this.’ He got better.”
Somehow, Charlie made it to the wedding. He even made it down the aisle, says O’Connell. He couldn’t make it back, so Kelly’s sister, the maid-of-honor, scooped him up and carried him down the aisle.
“The world,” O’Connell said of her sister’s effort. “It meant the world to me.”
Jen Dziuvenis, the wedding photographer, wrote on a Facebook post. “There isn’t enough mascara in the world for these moments. Dog people are the best people.”
“This is what love looks like,” said Dziuvenis, a Colorado-based photographer and a close friend of the bride’s sister. “Love for family, love for animals, love for your sister. It was just the most touching display of that that I’ve seen, and it was spur of the moment, it just happened, because that’s how these people are.”
She said she knew Charlie was sick but not how bad his condition was, and she didn’t realize he was going to be in the wedding until he showed up to shoot it.
“And that was kind of when I learned that they didn’t think he was going to make it that long, and that he had just a few days, maybe, after the wedding to live,” Dziuvenis said. “But they really wanted him in the wedding, because that’s the bride’s — that’s like her soul dog.”
After Charlie made his way back up the aisle with the help of the maid of honor everyone gathered around him. The bride stroked his face and told him how happy she was that he made it. The whole family (and the photographer ...) cried their eyes out. The amount of love these people have for their animals is enough to restore anyone's faith in humanity. These are good people Charlie is one lucky boy.
After Kelly’s sister carried the dog back down the aisle, the bride and groom dropped to their knees to give Charlie a hug.
“I just kept saying, ‘you made it buddy, you made it,'” O’Connell said. “He just had a giant grin on his face.”
Kelly said that seeing Charlie not able to walk even a few feet was “kind of like a sucker-punch to the gut.”
“I think despite that feeling though, when I look at the pictures, especially the one where the flowers are all around him, I just think he looks so happy in those pictures,” she said. “I just think to myself, despite that feeling of did I push it too far, or did I force him to stay around for this wedding, looking at those makes me think, he just wanted to see that, us come together, and I guess his mom be taken care of.”
A few days after the ceremony, Charlie was put down. Kelly described the wedding pictures as “priceless, absolutely priceless.”
“He may not have been able to do what he wanted to do, and his body was definitely failing him,” O’Connell said. “But he was happy to be there.”