Here Comes The Dog
by Cindie Farley
It was a fairytale wedding. Lover’s Point in Pacific Grove. The summer fog giving way to sunshine just for the occasion. A beautiful bride floating along the green-grass aisle to her handsome groom—and his dog.
Max-A-Million (because “he’s one in a million”), a seven-year-old Corgi/Sheltie mix, was actually already part of Nicole Fields-Chavez and Gregg Lalka’s family. Their “first child.” So when the two decided to get married, there was no question that Max would be in the wedding. It was only natural since he was already a big part of their life together, AND played a major role in Gregg’s proposal to Nicole.
They were living in Sacramento at the time, and Gregg surprised Nicole with a weekend getaway to her favorite place in the world—the dog-friendly Central Coast. Max came with them, of course, and the three headed for Carmel Beach so he could romp around off-leash. Gregg bent down to play with Max, and Nicole couldn’t help but notice that he never stood up again. She thought Gregg may have thrown his back out. Instead, he whipped around on bended knee and proposed! Max was right there sharing the surprise and excitement of that special moment.
Gregg and Nicole consider Max “one in a million” because, well, he is! They rescued him from a Sacramento shelter just in the nick of time. Because the previous owners had labeled him as “untrainable,” no one seemed to want him. As it turned out, Max is not only very trainable, but Gregg and Nicole are happy to say that he is the “most talented dog in the world,” proficient in whatever trick he tries. He just needed to be part of a loving family as we all do!
Being the most talented dog in the world, as well as having the right personality, made it easy for Max to be the “best dog” in Gregg and Nicole’s wedding. Not only did he love the attention of being in the wedding party, he knew how to “work the crowd,” making sure that everyone was smiling and having a good time.
As the bride, Nicole didn’t mind having Max as the “show stealer.” He took just enough of that attention away that can make a bride feel a bit nervous. She recalls that being in the spotlight was easy for Max. When Gregg was the weather anchor on the TV news, Max loved making regular appearances on the weather wall with him.
At first, Gregg was a little hesitant about dressing Max up to be in the wedding party. He thought Max, in his modified tuxedo, looked like a waiter in an upscale restaurant. But Max took it in stride as he did everything else, and may have been more comfortable even in his tux than the other groomsmen were in theirs. When he got bored or tired, he just rolled over on the grass and took a nap. Gregg says it’s “well worth trading in one groomsman for your dog. And a lot easier too.”
Nicole and Gregg would do it all over again. Here are a few tips from them, as well as some additional information if you’re considering including a dog relative in your wedding:
• Consider your dog’s temperament and abilities---and get an objective opinion on that as well! That will help you determine the best role for him. It may be easier to include a pup or high-strung dog only in the photo shoot. In some cases, it may be best to take photos with your dog prior to the wedding, even if it’s on a different day. If your dog has an active role in the ceremony itself, it is best to have him led by a member of the wedding party he’s comfortable with.
• Plan ahead---WAY ahead! That includes selecting the venue itself for your wedding. If you’re having the wedding and reception together at one venue, there will be more issues, such as proximity of pets to food service areas.
• Visit the wedding site with your dog ahead of time, even if it’s just earlier in the day. Familiarity will help ease excess curiosity, sniffing, and marking.
• If your dog will be dressed up for the occasion, help him get used to the idea by having him wear his outfit at home a few times before the big day.
• Consider hiring a professional pet sitter to be in charge of your dog for the day. Sitters can also give your dog their full attention and arrange transportation if needed.