If there ever was a dog who had his own bucket list, it had to have been Charlie Bear, a 15-year-old rescue dog who lived just long enough to be there as his human was married.
Charlie Bear, a handsome black Labrador retriever, met his human in 2002 when he was barely 12-weeks-old. Found abandoned in a shopping cart outside of a grocery store, Kelly O’Connell met him at a shelter while she was studying to become a veterinarian.
“I wasn’t looking for a dog. I was 19, still living with my parents and going to college,” Kelly told BuzzFeed News. “It was the worst time in my life to even attempt to get a dog. He came in, ( the shelter) and I was like ‘Yup, I’m taking this puppy home.'”
And so the two became the very best of friends; the two spent every moment together, and when Kelly moved from New York to Colorado and fell in love with veterinarian James Garvin, they all moved in together and became the family Kelly always wanted Charlie Bear to have. And so the family lived the charmed life – that is until April when Charlie was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
Just one week before the wedding, Charlie suffered from five seizures, and the family made the sad plans to put Charlie to sleep; a loving owner’s final act of love making sure her devoted four-legged pal would never suffer. Then something just short of a miracle happened – a few days before the wedding, Charlie’s health rebounded; he had no more seizures, had been walking fine and “seemed like a whole new dog.”
And on September 1, Kelly and James were married in Buena Vista, Colorado, as Charlie and one of their other five rescue dogs stood (or however they wanted to pose) by their side. Walking down the aisle, Kelly broke down in tears as she watched Charlie walk down the aisle to join them. But when Charlie was too tired to walk back after the ceremony, maid of honor, Katie Lloyd scooped Charlie up into her arms and carried him back.
“It hit home for me when I saw my sister carrying him back down the aisle. That this was it; we’re now talking days,” said Kelly in tears.
Family friend, photographer Jennifer Dziuvenis captured the entire emotional experience with her camera. On her Instagram, Jennifer posted some of the most poignant photos of a “family” so very much in love.
“I heard Katie say ‘Charlie, I can’t leave you behind’ before she scooped him up. I think he was really happy to be there… I see his face in these pictures how happy he looked. He’s literally smiling.”
On her Facebook page, Jennifer writes:
“When your beloved dog who is at the end of his life can’t make it back up the aisle, and your sister scoops him up and carries him …. THAT is love. Sweet Charlie is this bride’s beloved dog. He has a brain tumor and is on his last few days on this planet. He used up all of his energy before the wedding and didn’t have the strength to make it back up the aisle – so the maid of honor scooped him up and carried him. She’s 5’3″. He’s 80 pounds. There isn’t enough mascara in the world for these moments. Dog people are the best people.
THIS is why I love shooting weddings.”
Charlie Bear was surrounded by his family on September 9th when he was put to sleep. It was a phenomenal 15 years with Charlie for Kelly, James and the entire family. If only every dog had the privilege of being so respected, cared for and so loved – just like Charlie Bear. Rest in peace Charlie; you were wonderful, and you will be missed.
(Photos courtesy of JenDz Photography)