When I worked as a celebrant in London, I rarely had an opportunity to include dogs into ceremonies – for a couple of reasons: 1) not that many couples had dogs and 2) not many wedding venues allowed dogs. However, here in Australia I’m doing many weddings where dogs are a part of the day and this means two of my favourite things come together.
In this two part post, Part One tells the story of my dog, Valentine McFarty, with Part Two providing ideas on ways to incorporate your dog into your ceremony.
Adopting Our Boy
My husband, Mr HB and I wanted a dog since forever. We’d both grown up with them, but living in small apartments in London whilst working full time made it seem impossible.
It was only when someone suggested that with the help of dog-walkers and friends, we could make being a dog owner a reality that we decided to go for it. So, with much excitement we contacted Battersea Dogs Home, which was handily located down the road from where we lived.
Like many rescue centers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers make up the majority of abandoned, abused and lost dogs, so it wasn’t surprising that we were matched with two brindle boy Staff’s, one six months old, and one three years old.
Mr HB and I played with both, before unanimously agreeing that the three year old – ‘Mitch’ – was our boy. Poor Mitch had been in the rescue center for three months, and was suffering from signs of stress, whereas we knew the other puppy would have more chance of finding an adopter. The home knew nothing about his past; he had been found wandering on Clapham Common, scavenging through rubbish, and was rather overweight, but as to who his owners were, they knew zilch.
Within minutes we were walking out of the center with Mitch. We were dog owners!
We Ditch the Mitch
On our half hour walk home from the rescue center, Mr HB and I babbled excitedly whilst Mitch yanked on the lead, desperate to put as much distance from the center and himself as possible. It was at this time that Mr HB came up with an idea. Mitch had been found on 14th February 2011 by the rescue center, so why not call him Valentine?! A genius moment from Mr HB. Reader, this is why I married him.
His last name, ‘McFarty’, came from the moment I first saw him in his jacket we bought for London’s many cold winter days.
Me: ‘Oooh, don’t you look handsome’.
Me: ‘And what clan do you belong to?’
Me: ‘The McFarty clan, you say! How appropriate…’
I can assure you, he lives up to his clan’s name.
Life in London
Valentine quickly settled into life with Mr HB and I, though initially was very quiet and cuddly boy, perhaps frightened that if he showed his personality too much we might return him to the center. He didn’t play with the plethora of toys we’d bought him, but he did learn many tricks; ‘bang’ (where he drops dead), jumping through a hoop, ‘high five’ etc. He also loved coming to the pub, which was handy as we did this a lot.
As time went on, his confidence grew, and soon he would play with his toys, throwing his ball around our flat, and playing tug-of-war with his ropey. He loved chasing (but never catching) squirrels and foxes in the park opposite our house. We took him on our holidays, and realised he liked swimming in the sea and ponds, but not in a pool. He enriched our lives in ways that we never expected, and the cheeky, funny, silly side of his personality came out in droves.
Life in Australia
In 2015, Mr HB and I decided to move to Australia. This meant organising for Valentine to get his Pet Passport, a million or so vet checks and a very, very expensive flight, followed by 10 days in quarantine in Sydney. And every penny we paid was worth it, as Valentine took to living here like he was a true blue Aussie.
Now we live in a house with a garden he has learnt to bury his bones (though he does struggle to remember where he left them), bark and chase the postman, tease the magpies (who take much joy in swooping him – it’s a fun game), and going for a swim in the sea at least twice a week.
Some people say Valentine is lucky we adopted him, but Mr HB and I are the lucky ones. Seeing this boy, who had experienced god only knows what in his first three years, living the life he deserves is the most satisfying thing to observe.
I guess you can say that I am a proper dog lover. I truly love Valentine, but I also love many other dogs. I can’t walk past a dog without saying ‘hello’, and many of my friends’ dogs received the same kind of loving I give Valentine.
I hope you enjoyed reading a little bit about my boy, and keep an eye out for ‘Two Of My Favourite Things: Dogs & Weddings (Part Two)’ coming soon.