Therapy dogs 'wed,' with home residents as witnesses

Pet Tales




The groom, clad in black top hat and tails, stood solemnly at attention while the bridal party marched down the aisle to the strains of Johann Pachelbel's Canon in D.

Wedding guests "oohed" and "ahhed" at the lovely dresses, but some chuckled and nudged each other as they noted that the four bridesmaids were dogs.

No offense was taken, for the bridesmaids were literally dogs: a silver toy poodle named Lexi, a Maltese named Sadie, an Irish setter named Cherry and a golden retriever named Heidi.

The Riverside Care Center in McKeesport went to the dogs last Saturday when residents and staff were invited guests at a canine wedding. Ten dogs took part, all dressed in rather elaborate apparel.

Tiffany, the flower girl, and Amber Star, the minister, are Yorkshire terriers. Lovey, the ring bearer, is a cockapoo, and Josh, the best man, is a West Highland white terrier.

When the sound track switched to "Here Comes the Bride," the audience/wedding guests burst into applause as Peaches, a collie-shepherd mix, walked sedately down the aisle wearing a formal white gown and veil.

At the altar, Peaches joined the minister and the groom, a Shetland sheepdog named Toby.

I was very touched by the ceremony, as I usually am at weddings. But what really got to me was the time and effort that the owners of the dogs put into the training, costuming and staging of this event.

The dogs and owners are members of the nonprofit Keystone Canine Training Club in Bethel Park. All of the dogs have been certified by Therapy Dogs International, except for Amber Star, who is still in training because she's only a year old.

Each year, the dogs and their owners make hundreds of visits to nursing homes, hospitals and schools, in addition to staging five to 10 dog weddings.

The other feel-good factor was hearing the laughter of the nursing home residents. After the ceremony, residents met and petted the dogs.

You may never have the chance to attend a Keystone Canine dog wedding, but let's all give a virtual round of applause to the dogs' owners:

Caroline Chapman and her husband, Phil, who played the wedding music, own the bride, Peaches, 11, and ringbearer, Lovey, 7, who was handled by their daughter, Sandy Chapman. They all live in Peters.

Lucy McCloskey of Bethel Park owns groom Toby, 4. Tom and Phyllis Bandi, of Upper St. Clair, own minister Amber Star, 1, and flower girl Tiffany, 10. Clare Schmalz, of South Park owns best man Josh, 8.

And here's the bridesmaid lineup, including their dress colors:

Lexi, 5, in blue, and Sadie, 6, in pink, owned by Emil and Barbara Pohodich, of Bethel Park; Heidi, 6, in purple, owned by Betty Jean Maier, of Whitehall; and Cherry, 6, in kelly green, owned by Sally Tress of Peters.

You, too, can dress your dogs in wedding gowns and tuxedoes. While some of the owners made the dog garb, others ordered apparel online. Type "dog wedding clothes" in a search engine, and you'll get lots of hits.

During the wedding, Sadie kept her paws four-on-the-floor, but after the ceremony, she pranced around the room on two legs and twirled in circles, making her full-skirted dress billow and swirl.

"She thinks she's a ballerina," Mrs. Pohodich said.

Do you wish your dog could be well-behaved and obedient in public?

Go to www.keystonecanine.com or call 412-833-2211 to see the training classes and programs offered by the nonprofit club.


Arriving from Austin

Luke Robinson and his Great Pyrenees dogs, Murphy, 8, and Hudson, 2, are expected to arrive in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. That will be about half-way in their 2,000-mile journey from Austin, Texas, to Boston to raise awareness for canine cancer research, prevention and treatment.

Around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, they'll have a police escort as they walk across the West End Bridge to participate in the Pirates' Pup Nite at PNC Park. Mr. Robinson said anyone is welcome to join him. On Wednesday, they'll do a meet and greet from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in Market Square, Downtown. On Thursday, they'll be at Woody's Dog Wash & boutique, 5843 Brownsville Road, South Park, at 11 a.m. and then from 5 to 9 p.m. at Robinson Towne Center with the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society.

Luke and the boys were featured June 6 in Pet Tales.


Linda Wilson Fuoco can be reached at lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3064.




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