BEUNA VISTA -- At the marriage of two Colorado veterinarians, of course pets are in the wedding party.
"We absolutely love animals, obviously," said Kelly O'Connell, a Longmont veterinarian who was married on Sept. 1 in Buena Vista.
But having her Labrador Retriever mix, Charlie, at her wedding was about something more, she said.
"So Charlie, um, was my best friend," she said with tears in her eyes.
She rescued Charlie 15 years ago.
"When I saw him, I don't know what it was. I was just like, 'Yeah, this is my dog. I'm taking him home,'" said O'Connell.
His puppy energy forced her to take up running -- lots of it.
"I did many marathons actually -- all because of Charlie," she said.
When she met her husband-to-be and his two children, Charlie had to approve first, and he did.
"Charlie doesn't like everyone. But he immediately loved them," she said. "To be at my wedding, Charlie was literally kind of that symbol of the two families coming together, getting to know each other and getting to love each other. "
But a few months ago, they learned Charlie was dying; he started having seizures caused by a brain tumor.
On the day of the wedding, Charlie made it down the aisle, but was too tired to walk back on his own.
"And so my sister, being my sister, scooped him up -- all 80 pounds of him -- and carried him back down the aisle," said O'Connell. "We literally ignored everybody. We just dropped to our knees and we just kept saying, 'You did it, buddy. You made it. You're here. You're here.' Everybody was crying."
Eight days after the wedding, Charlie passed away.
"Those memories. That moment -- I was just happy to have him, for him to be there and for the years I had with him," she said. "And in the pictures he is smiling. You can't deny it. He is smiling."