Charlie Bear was determined to see Kelly O’Connell, his 15-year companion, tie the knot.
O’Connell and Charlie met when she found him as a puppy in a shopping cart. Years later, Charlie suffered from an advanced brain tumor, but was still there to see O’Connell get married to fellow veterinarian James Garvin in Colorado.
Charlie walked down the aisle just for O’Connell, but did not have the energy to walk back during the recessional. O’Connell’s 5’3″ maid of honor decided to help the 80-pound black lab by carrying him. “I’m not leaving you behind,” she said.
Charlie unfortunately passed away nine days after the wedding, but these pictures show the love he shared with a group of amazing people:
I am home from a trip up to Buena Vista to shoot the beautiful wedding of the family of one of my dearest friends. I am still processing all that went down and will have MANY more photos to share – including one of the most heartwarming showings of love for a dog and family I've ever seen. Stay tuned for photos of gorgeous scenery and people who are every bit as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside. Just a warning … If you're a dog lover you'll probably want to have the tissues ready …
This is Charlie, black mystery dog and beloved companion to the bride whose wedding I shot last weekend. Charlie has a brain tumor and is in his last few days of life. He was the central figure to one of the most touching displays of love for family (both human and canine) that I have seen at a wedding. Over the next day or two I'll be sharing some photos from the moment that completely wrecked me. Dog lovers, stay tuned. ❤️❤️❤️
Charlie is one of five dogs owned by the beautiful couple whose wedding I shot last week. He was his mom's buddy well before she met her future husband and before she went off to Europe for vet school. Charlie has a brain tumor and is on his last few days of life. He walked around a bunch with one of the kids before the wedding and used up all his energy. He didn't have any trouble walking down the aisle but when it was time to walk back up it he just couldn't do it. That was when the bride's sister said "I am NOT leaving you behind!", scooped him up, and carried him. He's 80 lbs. She's 5'2". It was one of the most powerful showings of love for family (both her sister and the Charlie dog!) I have seen. Tears. SO MANY tears.
After Charlie made his way back up the aisle with the help of the maid of honor everyone gathered around him. The bride stroked his face and told him how happy she was that he made it. The whole family (and the photographer …) cried their eyes out. The amount of love these people have for their animals is enough to restore anyone's faith in humanity. These are good people Charlie is one lucky boy.
Thank you to those who have been following along with Charlie's story! Moments like these are why I love wedding photography. Meeting people during some of the most interesting and important times in their lives and preserving those moments forever is one of the most fulfilling things I do. When I first started doing photography professionally I never in a million years thought I'd want to shoot weddings and now I can't imagine doing anything else. Getting to capture moments like these is such a privilege and I am so grateful to the amazing couples that let me in to their lives. I will keep you all posted on how the Charlie dog is doing. ❤
Rest in peace, Charlie.
(H/T: King 5)