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The Best Wedding Is This Dog Wedding

The goodest boy; the best man. Photo: Milovan Knezevic/Getty Images

Listen, I can hear your eyes rolling all the way from here, and ordinarily I think you could fairly assume that any headline — any piece of content, really — pegged on the phrase “dog wedding” would be some degree of insufferable (or, if you are being honest with yourself, unbearably pleasant), a tidy encapsulation of a late-capitalist thirst for viral fame. But please, suspend your disbelief for the next ~2 minutes.

Lilly Smartelli is a former nurse who used to live on her own boat, which should tell you straight out of the gate that she has things pretty well figured out. Further, she has injected meaning into the most meaningless holiday: On Valentine’s Day, she will symbolically marry her cocker spaniel-poodle mix, Bernie, while her other dog, Spinner, stands by as best man. The groom will wear a tiny, powder-pink tuxedo bib, but that is not even the most compelling part of the tale.

In 2017, Smartelli received a terminal pulmonary fibrosis diagnosis and she now has one or two years left to live. Confronting the question of what she wants to do with that time, all she wanted — as she told the New York Times — was a “big Italian wedding.”

“I know I will never be married, but I would still love to experience the kind of wedding, even if it’s a fake wedding, that I’ve been dreaming about since I was a little girl,” Smartelli said. “I can’t think of anyone in the entire world who loves me more than Bernie does.” So why in the hell not make it official? The best way to do Valentine’s Day, according to Meghan Markle, a person who reportedly knows a lot about this, is to treat yourself as well as those you love most. This plan checks all the boxes — now all they need is a cake worthy of a very good boy.

Smartelli believes that although she rescued Bernie, he really rescued her. As such, she plans to donate a portion of whatever wedding gifts she receives to underfunded animal shelters in her area; the rest will go to an organ donation organization called Donate Life America. Herself an organ donor, Smartelli wanted to make her big day about her two most important causes, and I simply cannot scoff at this wedding.

I imagine the thing you really want to know, though, is who proposed to whom? Actually, a tangentially related third party planted the seeds of matrimony, Smartelli told the Times. On a trip to the groomer, she mused, “I may as well marry Bernie,” because unlike the disappointing men in her past, “[h]e’s always there for me. He listens, and he loves me no matter what. What more could a woman want?”

All fair and valid points, the groomer probably thought as they straightened Bernie’s sparkly bowtie, for certainly, people get married for far less worthy reasons: money, proximity to celebrity, a sense of obligation. When Smartelli returned to retrieve her man, she found rings dangling from his collar and a note asking for her human hand in marriage. Now, she admits, “It might be a little unorthodox, but so had many other choices in my adventurous life. I don’t need to find a man, not when I have Bernie.”

When you know, you know.

The Best Wedding Is This Dog Wedding