At first I thought my friend had gone a bit too far, but …
Lola and Teddy Bear, the happy couple
By Ruby R. Benjamin, Ed.D.
The invitation read:
“Mr. & Mrs. L request the honor for you to attend the marriage of their daughter, Lola, to Teddy Bear, son of Mr. & Mrs. G., Saturday, April 18, 2009, 5:00 PM, Lincoln Square Dog Area”
I had never before been invited to a canine wedding, and I smiled as I returned the R.S.V.P. card, saying that I would certainly be attending.
I’d met Teddy Bear five years earlier, when he was just a 3-month-old ball of white fur. It was love at first lick, and he has been a frequent visitor to my home for sleepovers and love-fests.
Teddy Bear and Lola had also been friends for a number of years. They lived in different apartment buildings on New York City’s Upper West Side. And when I was dog-sitting Teddy Bear and paying a visit to Lola’s home, his pace would increase to a trot as we crossed the street. Then, as we exited the elevator on Lola’s floor, Teddy Bear would run to her door anticipating seeing her and playing together for hours.
Seeing them together, I knew they loved each other. Their families had become good friends, too, because of Lola and Teddy Bear’s daily play dates in the garden, so it was for them just the next step when they met to discuss plans to take the canine relationship to the next level: marriage.
Both dogs’ guardians are traditional people who consider their pets to be members of the family. They wanted a proper wedding for Lola and Teddy Bear. This is what they would do for a beloved child, so why not for a beloved dog? They wanted to express the human-animal bond in a special commitment ceremony.
It’s more popular than I thought
Anthropomorphism is a Greek word for the tendency for people to think of animals or inanimate objects as having human-like characteristics. From early Biblical times to present day TV commercials and Hollywood animations, anthropomorphism has been used to tell stories or as metaphors.
Having a canine wedding surely qualified as anthropomorphic. I admit that at first I thought my friends had gone a bit too far. But I quickly learned that they were by no means out of the mainstream.
Canine weddings are on the rise. And it’s not unusual for dogs to be part of human weddings, too. A recent survey by the American Kennel Club reported that 18 percent of dog guardians included or would include dogs in their nuptials. Older couples, in particular, often marry for the second time. They see their dogs as children and want them included in the ceremony.
Florida leads the states in “puptuals”, followed by California and Texas. Japanese people increasingly sanctify their “puptuals” with a member of the clergy officiating. An entire industry has emerged catering to “muttremony.” Guardians can spend from $400 to $10,000 on canine wedding planners, attires, accessories, flowers, food and venue.
Vows and bow-wows
Lola and Teddy Bear’s wedding was a bow-wow success. Lola’s sparkling engagement ring and Teddy Bear’s “Stud” tag were displayed prominently on the reception table as guests arrived in the bride’s home. Lola looked lovely in her tiara and veil. Her lace skirt was made from her guardian’s own wedding dress. Teddy Bear was equally handsome in his tuxedo T-shirt and black silk bow tie. They happily greeted the guests with appropriate licks.
It was a beautiful clear spring day as the two- and four-legged guests assembled in the garden. The trees and some of the bushes offered up their flowers for the occasion.
Lola had been spayed and Teddy Bear was neutered, so there would be no puppies from this union. The respective mother guardians read the “bow-vows.” Lola promised to share her treats and sticks and, if it were ever necessary, to bite other dogs in defense of Teddy Bear. Teddy Bear vowed to share the treasured leaves he obsessively finds, along with his squeaky toys, and to offer as many licks as Lola desired. They would be faithful to each other forever.
But then, just as the vows were ending, Teddy Bear exhibited cold-paws. He began to walk away. One of the guests was heard to comment, “Just like a man!” Teddy Bear was quickly returned to Lola’s side and they were pronounced a married couple.
The reception followed with doggie and people food and drinks for all. The main toasts were made by the guardians, and then the bride and groom’s friends barked their own congratulations. A honeymoon was planned for when both families were able to take a vacation.
That evening, as I reflected on the day’s events, I wondered about Teddy Bear’s sleepovers at my home. Would I now have to get Lola’s permission, and would Teddy Bear be charged with “adogtery?”
What do you say? Have you ever been to a dog wedding? Would you consider having one of your pets “marry” his or her close friend? Let us know in a comment or on Facebook.
Dr. Ruby Benjamin is a psychotherapist in private practice in New York City with individuals and couples. She specializes in relationship issues with self, others and, sometimes with canines. She is on the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Center for Mental Health, the Metropolitan Institute for Training in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy and is a consultant to Doctors without Borders, Peer Support Network.