Your wedding day is one of the most important days of your life, and you want to spend it surrounded by your loved ones — and for many couples, that includes their pets.
We’ve seen many stories of couples including their beloved pets in their big day, even making them the “best man.” But one story will truly tug at your heartstrings: a dog dying from cancer hung on just long enough to see his owners down the aisle.
Kelly O’Connell, a veterinarian, was just 19 when she laid eyes on Charlie, a black Lab mix. The dog had been found abandoned in a shopping cart in the middle of winter. While Kelly wasn’t planning on adopting a dog at the time, she knew it was love at first sight.
“I don’t know what it was. I was just like, ‘Yeah, this is my dog. I’m taking him home,’” she told the Denver Channel.
Kelly and Charlie soon became best friends, and he changed her life. The very active, playful dog inspired the owner to take up running.
Her dog was so important that when she met her future husband James Garvin, also a veterinarian, one of her biggest concerns was if he and his kids would get along with Charlie — thankfully, they hit it off. “Charlie doesn’t like everyone. But he immediately loved them,” Kelly said.
“He grew to love him just as much as I did,” she told CNN. “[Charlie] was a symbol of the coming together of the family.”
But after 15 years together, Charlie started slowing down. He wasn’t his usual active self, and after he suffered a seizure, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
At the same time, the couple was preparing for their wedding day. “It broke my heart, he had five seizures the week before the wedding,” Kelly told People. “We considered putting him down, but he seemed to get better, so we waited.”
It was as if Charlie was holding on just long enough to see his owners get married — so when their big day arrived, Charlie was there.
Despite being weak from cancer and near death, Charlie found the strength to walk Kelly and James down the aisle for their vows.
Sadly, he was too weak to walk back, but Kelly’s sister helped him out.
“My sister, being my sister, scooped him up — all 80 pounds of him — and carried him back down the aisle,” Kelly told the Denver Channel.
It was an emotional moment for everyone, and even on her big day Kelly could only think about how proud she was of her beloved dog.
“We literally ignored everybody. We just dropped to our knees and we just kept saying, ‘You did it, buddy. You made it. You’re here. You’re here.’ Everybody was crying.”
It turned out to be one of their last memories together: Charlie died just nine days after the ceremony. But while she was heartbroken to lose her best friend, Kelly was grateful Charlie was able to make it, and that the sweet moments were captured by their wedding photographer Jen Dziuvenis.
“Those memories. That moment — I was just happy to have him, for him to be there and for the years I had with him,” she said. “And in the pictures he is smiling. You can’t deny it. He is smiling.”
“I’ll miss Charlie, he was my best friend,” she told People. “But he’ll never be forgotten. And we’ll always have the wedding photos to remember him by.”