Flare jeans, bushy brows, platform sneakers — those things go in and out of style. But one fad that will never fade or wane is pictures of dogs doing cute things, so you'll understand why some photos of a bride and her service dog on her wedding day are hotter than Hansel on the Internet right now. Valerie Parrot suffers from panic attacks and anxiety. Her service dog Bella, a yellow labrador retriever, can detect the early signs of distress (increased heart rate) and help to calm and comfort her but nudging and licking her ... which is really also a hyper efficient version of the relationship that many dog owners aim to achieve with their pets. Because as pet owners, we want to bridge the gap between our species and form bonds with our pets that minimize the differences between us. So to see Bella at work with Valerie, providing her with the tender support she needed on one of the most important days of her life, makes our hearts swoon to the max.
While Bella is a trained service animal who's had to undergo tests and qualifications in order to fine-tune and harness her skill set, she's still also a dog who loves her owner. And while Valerie might depend of Bella for support, she also looks to Bella when she's off duty as a best friend, like any other pet owner. They play fetch, the cuddle, they go on walks, and they take selfies.
Wedding photographer Maddie Peschong had the pleasure of photographing Valerie's big day. While Bella was at the wedding as a guest and part of the wedding party, she was also on duty — because weddings can cause anxiety and panic even in those who do not suffer from mental illness. Peschong's photos capture both sides of Bella: the friend and the care giver. As Bella played the part of a flower girl and walked down the aisle in a pink tutu, she inspired many-a-photo op. While it's great that Valerie's cute pooch got to shine on the Internet in her tutu and spread joy to those who love to click such things, it's even greater that these photos are bringing awareness to the severity of mental illness and the importance of service animals — two things aren't often discussed honestly and openly in the land of viral Internet.
If you want to learn more about Valerie and Bella and their beautiful relationship, check out her blog where she gets into it all. Valerie uses her blog as a platform to share her journey and spread awareness about the the daily struggles of people who suffer from similar mental illnesses and the ways in which their service animals can enrich and revive their every day lives.