NORTH SALEM, N.Y. - Pearl the Bichon poodle was pregnant with seven puppies (only six would live) in terrible conditions near the Mexican border when 2,000 miles away a North Salem family began planning her wedding.
The fluffy beauty was being mistreated by a breeder when she caught the eye of rescue organization TracysDogs, a nonprofit based in Texas that pulls animals from high-kill shelters and bad situations and does a meticulous vetting of families to get them re-homed.
The McKenneys were already part of the TracysDogs family; in September they had adopted Chauncey, also a Bichon poodle. A few months after he was settled, they wondered whether he could use a friend.
Meanwhile, Pearl was recovering from her mistreatment with a foster from TracysDogs. After she gave birth to her puppies (adorably called a “string of Pearls” by TracysDogs), the McKenney’s were first on the list to get a phone call for her adoption.
Could they come get her in Pittsburgh, TracysDogs asked? For the animal lovers, Walter and Patty McKenney, no trip to rescue a dog in need was too far.
And when the McKenney’s granddaughters—Keira, 6, and Claire, 4—saw the photo of Pearl, another plan was hatched. Could their grandparents plan a wedding for the dogs, pretty-please? For the doting grandparents, no suggestion was too far-fetched or silly.
“In this crazy world we live in, it’s nice to have a little fun,” said Patty McKenney, offering an explanation for the series of events that followed her granddaughters’ suggestion.
A Royal Wedding
First, shirts were ordered, reading “Father of the bride” and “Mother of the bride” for the trip to Pittsburgh. The rescue organization was game to play along too, and posted news of the impending nuptials on its Facebook page, prompting a resounding “aww” from its internet following.
“I told (TracysDogs), and so all of the sudden we started getting wedding gifts in the mail,” Patty McKenney said.
Friends reached out. One had a doggy tuxedo Chauncey (now King Chauncey) could borrow. Another offered to sew a vail for Queen Pearl. The wedding dress would be ordered from Amazon.
“Chauncey is very laid back. A typical man. Pearl is just a little spitfire,” Patty McKenney said. “Chauncey is about 3 and Pearl is 2. She’s a baby. She was used as a breeder in a backyard. She never, ever was in the front yard. She is just the sweetest little thing you’d ever want to meet.
“Before us, Chauncey was dumped three times at the shelter,” McKenney continued. “He was having mild seizures. I guess (the previous families) didn’t know or couldn’t be bothered (to get treatment).”
The McKenneys have always had dogs, but Chauncey and Pearl are their first rescues. The family was grieving the loss of Bubbles, a Jack Russell schnauzer, when a video from TracysDogs popped up on Patty McKenney’s Facebook feed.
“I sat and cried and knew that’s where I was getting my next dog from,” Patty McKenney said.
The nonprofit does background checks on all of its potential families before placing their dogs, so you can’t just adopt one on a whim.
“When Pearl was found and they got her at the rescue, Tracy texted me and she knew we were kind of looking for a second dog and they said, ‘She’s a real lady.’ Well, how could we pass her up?” Patty McKenney said.
Engagement photos were taken by the granddaughters’ riding instructor from Stoneleigh Farm in Brewster at Farmer and the Fish in Purdys. The wedding date was chosen and the e-vites were sent.
“They truly are head over paws in love. So sweet. They will be serving lunch and wedding cake of course,” Patty McKenney wrote in the invite that went to 30 of her human friends and family.
“It will be cute. Why not? You only go around once,” Patty McKenney reasoned.
Her cousin, David Mello, a poet, was picked to officiate. On the big day, he wore all black and donned a pastor’s collar made from computer paper.
To have and to hold
On the day of the wedding, the McKenney’s house on Sunset Drive looked like, well, a wedding was taking place. A balloon tied to the mailbox outside marked the location. Inside, pink and blue streamers covered the stairs from where Pearl would descend. Paper lanterns hung from the ceiling. A guestbook had been crafted and chairs were lined up in the McKenney’s living room where a walk-way was rolled out for the wedding procession.
At the front, Chauncey, held by Walter McKenney, waited for his bride.
Online, in the virtual TracysDog community, thousands were also watching.
“The local newspaper will be there along with a professional photographer,” TracysDogs wrote on its Facebook page, followed by two cry-laughing emojis. “This just keeps getting better, doesn’t it? It sure does take an army of dog loving people to rescue dogs.
“(Pearl), this little dog went from living in a dirty backyard, crawling with bugs, to getting married in New York to King Chauncey. Love is a beautiful emotion and it’s the most powerful force in the universe,” they wrote.
Mello delivered the vows and a short poem he wrote with a sense of seriousness to match the occasion, and, because who could help it, a few puns were slipped in.
“Puppy love gathers us here today,” he read. “We celebrate the love between a couple that see each other as the cat’s meow. May they never hunger for dog biscuits and always be filled with love.”
On This Day
When: July, 23, 2018
Where: North Salem, N.Y.
Bridesmaids: Keira and Claire wore lacey, pink dresses and carried bouquets of white flowers. Keira wore a pink dog-ear headband while Claire opted for a classic pink bow.
Down the aisle: Queen Pearl was carried to her groom while a recording of “Bless the Broken Road” by the Rascal Flatts played from a cell phone speaker. The ceremony began when Patty McKenney instructed a friend to end the music, “Alright, you know that’s long, so you can cut it.”
I Do: A wedding attendee graciously barked out “ruff!” when it was the pups’ turn to speak.
For more information about the dog rescue organization, visit tracysdogs.com.