In what can only be described as the most tear-jerking story of the week, bride Kelly O’Connell's maid of honor carried her dying dog down the aisle so that he wouldn't miss his mom's big day. There wasn't a dry eye in the audience (or in my room as I read about this story). Dogs are just the best. Case closed.
Charlie Bear was a 15-year-old Labrador retriever mix whose health was on the decline the week leading up to the wedding on Sept. 1. His owner, Kelly, wanted nothing more than for her best friend to be there with her on her big day. Unfortunately, Charlie Bear had multiple seizures right before, and her owners were worried that he wasn't going to make it. The devastating news is even more grim once you learn just how special Charlie Bear and Kelly's relationship was. She adopted him from a shelter where Charlie was placed after he was abandoned in a shopping cart at a grocery store. As an aspiring veterinarian, Kelly took on Charlie Bear as her soul dog.
It seems as though Charlie Bear knew how much it would mean for Kelly to see him at the wedding, because his health stabilized enough for him to attend. The only problem was that Charlie Bear was too weak to walk his 80-pound body down the aisle. That's when the Katie Lloyd, Kelly's sister and maid of honor, threw everyone for a loop and straight up carried the dog in her arms the whole way. Now that's a maid of honor we all wish were in our lives.
Kelly O'Connell's husband, James Garvin, also a veterinarian, understood the connection between his wife and her first pet. She's been with him for almost half of her life and that's a bond not easily broken. Knowing that Charlie Bear's health was on the decline put an emotional toll on Kelly but her wedding was anything but sad thanks to her friends and family.
Photographer Jennifer Dziuvenis captured the whole ceremony and the emotions of the attendees. She has known the Charlie Bear's family for a long time, and says that it was just something they do for each other.
"Katie is a tiny woman and Charlie was an 80 pound dog (he was up 20 pounds after being put on prednisone)," Dziuvenis tells Bustle in an e-mail. "That had to be tough! It was one of the sweetest things I've ever seen. I think we were all gobsmacked by how touching this moment was. It was very emotional for everyone. I've never seen anything like this before as a photographer!"
Sadly, Charlie Bear passed away a few days after the wedding ceremony. He was put down in front of the fireplace, and surrounded by the people who loved him most.
A pretty fitting way to go for a pet who brought tremendous joy to his owner. Kelly and James are still busy taking care of the other foster dogs they have adopted, but of course, no one can replace Charlie Bear. These stunning images are a testament to the love that ran deep between him and his family, and they will be able to cherish them long after Charlie Bear is gone.