Dog Day Afternoon

Photo by Laura Gaines

Photo by Laura Gaines

Many couples these days first connect online, but Baby “Dot” Todd and Ford O’Brien met the old-fashioned way: Their mothers introduced them. The chemistry was instant. “They would run together with their necks entwined,” says Donna Marie Todd.

Whether they’re so-called “fur babies” for the childless or part of a household with kids, dogs are enjoying increased status in the family. “There’s definitely a trend toward humanizing dogs,” says Jenna Yarosh, owner of Patton Avenue Pet Company in Asheville. (One perk: Unlike with kids, “you can leave them at home alone without [Child Protective Services] knocking,” she quips.)

Thanks to a zealously dog-friendly culture, Asheville-area canines have access to daycare and to ice-cream shops.

“There’s been a change in the way we treat companion animals. Now dogs are part of the family, rather than objects we own,” notes Caroline Gunther, proprietor of Wag! in Hendersonville, billed as a “unique pet boutique.”

Birthday parties and weddings were the logical next step. Todd, a widow whose son Torey is attending UNCA, felt pressured to formalize the dog couple’s bond before winter set in and their hikes would be less frequent. “Dot had a promise collar for a year,” she says. “If we didn’t have the wedding now, the whole relationship may have fallen apart.”

The recently divorced Angela O’Brien, whose daughter Lucy is a senior in high school, admits she needed a push. “This was all Donna Marie. She was planning the wedding for about a year, like it or not,” O’Brien says. “Finally, she just gave me a date when I had to be there.”

Todd, a storyteller by trade, planned the wedding as she would craft a tale, anticipating audience response: “I thought, ‘What would they like to see? And how can I create fun?'”

Country chic set the tone. The hunting theme featured real guns and crossbows. Flowers from the couple’s favorite hiking spot were woven into the bride’s collar, and each guest took home a nosegay wedding favor.

Todd wrote personal vows for the dogs and performed them in dog voices. The scandalous mention of a rival blue-eyed pitbull drew laughter, although the bride did not seem amused.

After the ceremony, guests watched the bride and groom gobble down an entire mashed-potato and chicken cake. The human feast included a sumptuous noodle bar. Dot’s canine brother, Mr. Pip, served as ring bearer, and Ginger, Ford’s canine sister, was maid of honor. Gifts included at least three kinds of squirrel toys.

The honeymoon is still in the works. “When she finds out we have to plan that now, Angela will be thrilled,” says Todd, wryly. But if O’Brien is hesitant, it’s understandable: Just the apparel choices are daunting.

“Not long ago, you couldn’t get many clothes for dogs,” notes Gunther. “In just the five years I’ve been in business, there are so many more.”

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