Charlie Bear, a little black lab, was adopted by Kelly O’Connell when he was just 12 weeks old. Kelly happened to be working at an animal shelter, during her veterinary studies, when a good soul found the puppy abandoned at a grocery store and brought him in.
Although Kelly still lived with her parents – hardly ideal for adopting a puppy – she immediately decided that Charlie Bear was meant to be in her life. Love at first sight.
They grew together and moved from New York to Colorado. Then in 2010, Kelly met and fell in love with fellow veterinarian James Garvin, and the dog mom and her fur kid moved in with Garvin and his two sons. They were a happy family and the couple became engaged. Life was pretty good.
Then, last April, Charlie Bear suffered a seizure while out on a walk, and was diagnosed with a serious brain tumor. It looked as if the beloved dog wouldn’t make it to the wedding day. In fact, the week before the ceremony, Charlie Bear suffered five seizures.
He was obviously suffering, but the 15-year-old black lab hung on just long enough to see his best friend marry the love of her life.
On September 1, 2016, Charlie Bear walked down the aisle and lay next to Kelly as she took her vows. He even seemed to smile as he looked on. When it was time to walk back, however, Charlie simply couldn’t summon the strength. So, Kelly’s sister and Maid of Honor, Katie O’Connell, bent down and lifted the 80-pound dog in her arms.
“Everyone was crying, myself included,” wedding photographer Jen Dziuvenis told CBS News. “I think everyone was a little bit shocked. Katie is a tiny woman and Charlie is an 80-pound dog, but there was no way she was going to leave him there.”
Katie carried Charlie all the way down the aisle, as a groomsman walked one of the couple’s other five dogs by her side.
“When they made it back up the aisle, everyone gathered around him,” Dziuvenis recalls. “Everyone was crying. Kelly just kept saying, ‘You made it buddy! You’re here!’ It was one of the sweetest things I’ve ever seen. It was probably one of the sweetest things any of us have ever seen.”
“Everyone knew how special it was for Kelly to have Charlie there. He was having a really good day, walking around happily with the kids before the ceremony. I think everyone felt really grateful,” says Jen Dziuvenis of JenDz Photography.
Finally a week or so later, Charlie Bear was put to rest. He passed peacefully in front of the fireplace at home, surrounded by his family.
Charlie Bear’s life was meaningful and he was the center of Kelly’s big day. She’ll never forget him.