Charlie Bear was Kelly O'Connell's best friend. They met when O'Connell was 19, and Charlie, a black lab mix, was 12 weeks old.
“I wasn’t looking for a dog,” O’Connell told BuzzFeed. “I was ... still living with my parents and going to college. It was the worst time in my life to even attempt to get a dog."
But O'Connell threw logic to the wind when Charlie, who had been found abandoned in a shopping cart, was brought to the New York animal shelter where O'Connell was working as a vet.
They moved across the country together and settled in Colorado, where O'Connell later met, fell in love with, and moved in with fellow veterinarian James Garvin and his two sons. They ended up getting engaged.
But this April, 15-year-old Charlie had a seizure while on a walk. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
Things weren't looking good. After Charlie had five seizures the week before the wedding, O'Connell and Garvin made plans to put him down.
Somehow, though, Charlie's condition improved in the week of the wedding — and maybe, thought O'Connell, he would hang on long enough.
"I just thought, I want him to see this," O'Connell said.
And he did. Just days before he passed, Charlie and another one of the couple's five dogs were with them at their wedding.
As Charlie walked down the aisle, "James and I just grabbed onto him, and we just kept saying, ‘You made it, buddy, you made it,' " O'Connell said. Her sister/maid of honor carried Charlie back up the aisle at the end of the ceremony when he got too tired to walk.
“I see his face in (the) pictures how happy he looked. He’s literally smiling," O'Connell said. "His body was failing him, but he was happy.”
The reception was filled with tears of joy and sometimes sadness as they celebrated both the marriage and Charlie's life.
“I think he was really happy to be there,” the wedding photographer told BuzzFeed. “I mean, obviously he didn’t understand what was happening, but this is his family."
About a week later, as he lay in front of the fireplace at home, Charlie was put to sleep. He was surrounded by members of his family, who were beyond grateful that they got to share their lives — let alone their wedding ceremony — with him.
"It was a phenomenal moment," O'Connell told Buzzfeed. "It was a phenomenal 15 years. That's for sure."