By Delia Engstrom | Photos by Roman Grinev Photography
Brides have a lot of decisions to make when it comes to wedding planning-such as picking a venue, deciding on flowers, or choosing a photographer. For Emily Murrell, an Operation Paws for Homes (OPH) volunteer, there was one decision that was especially ruff.
Murrell knew she wanted to add a personal touch to her wedding and it only made sense that it would involve some furry special guests.
She and her now-husband Brent serve as fosters for Operation Paws for Homes, a non-profit organization that rescues dogs from rural high-kill shelters and places them with loving volunteers, like Emily and Brent, until they can find a forever home.
“We have two dogs of our own- a yellow lab named Midas and Brynn, a Catahoula leopard dog,” states Emily, “but we’ve also fostered 23 different dogs for OPH over the years.”
After seeing a post on social media where a bride had used puppies in place of traditional bouquets, Murrell knew including OPH puppies would make her special day even more memorable.
Laurie Landers, Director of Operations at OPH, was thrilled with the idea. This type of exposure is important to their mission. “In the rescue world, we work hard to share the stories of these wonderful animals so that we can find them loving forever homes.”
As the August 2017 wedding date drew closer, Murrell coordinated with another OPH foster to have four shepherd mix puppies brought to the wedding. “We didn’t want to make it stressful at all for the puppies, so the photo shoot was planned for after the ceremony with just the wedding party,” recalls Emily.
Shortly after sharing their first kiss as husband and wife, it was time to move on to puppy kisses! The six members of the bridal party happily joined the bride and groom for a photo shoot with the six-week-old dogs.
“Everyone loved it! All but one of the members of our wedding party are pet owners, and the one guy who isn’t jokingly tried to run off with the puppy!”, Murrell laughs.
OPH couldn’t have been more honored to have the Murrells include these pups in their wedding. Sonja Gladwin, who serves on the Board of Directors, feels “We rely on our volunteers to save lives every day. They find new and innovative ways to ensure our pups have a voice, get noticed and find their loving forever homes. We are thankful to Emily for sharing her love of rescue with the world during one of the most cherished days of her life.”
The newlyweds plan to continue volunteering with Operation Paws for Homes and recently adopted a third dog, a Newfoundland puppy named Frankie. And just like Emily and Brent, each of the wedding puppies found their happily-ever-after as well.
To adopt or volunteer with OPH, please visit ophrescue.org.
Delia Engstrom is a writer and photographer who lives in Montclair with her family and pets. Their five-year-old boxer/pit mix, Macy, is an OPH rescue.