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Vickroy: Pet resort lets marrying couples include best dogs

Kristen Morgan's pitbull Rosco walked her down aisle when she got married Nick Morgan July 21.

Kristen Morgan's pitbull, Rosco, walked her down the aisle when she got married to Nick Morgan July 21.

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Updated: November 15, 2012 6:07AM



The bride wore white. The groom, black.

And the dog, well, he sported a spiffy bow tie.

When Kristen and Nick Morgan were married July 21 at the Stonegate banquet hall in Hoffman Estates, their entire family participated — including their two pit bulls.

While Dozer cheered the happy couple on, Rosco, a tan and white terrier, had the honors of walking Kristen down the aisle.

“It was perfect,” Kristen said, “the wedding of my dreams.”

The Morgans, of Bridgeview, rescued both dogs two years ago from the Animal Welfare League in Chicago Ridge.

“The dogs have been such a huge part of our family, I couldn’t imagine my wedding without them,” she said.

Wedding planning service

Across the Chicago area, pet-loving couples are including their canines in at least some part of their wedding ceremony.

They’re getting help from the staff at Pawsitively Heaven Pet Resort in Chicago Ridge.

A while back, resort owner Judy Schnur noticed a recurring concern.

Many of the marrying couples who chose to board their animals overnight at Pawsitively Heaven expressed dismay that their dogs had to spend the big day at a kennel. So the staff came up with a plan.

Donna Kinney has been the resort’s wedding planner since it began offering the service three years ago.

Since then, Kinney has brought freshly groomed dogs, some of them sporting ties or bandanas, inside St. Bede’s Church in Chicago, to Chateau Bu-Sche banquet hall in Alsip, and to downtown hotels.

She also spent an evening pet-sitting a dog during a wedding and reception at Narnia Estates in Lemont. She has escorted dogs down aisles, tied satin pillows to pets’ backs and nervously untied real wedding rings from collars under the watchful eyes of celebrants.

The service costs about $30 an hour, Kinney said.

Overnight kenneling is a separate charge.

The extent of a pet’s involvement depends on how much access the church or banquet hall will allow. Some couples simply have their pets pose with them in a photo session. Others, including the Morgans, want their dog to participate.

When the animal’s job is done, Kinney or another staffer takes it back to the resort. Couples can pick it up the next morning or after their honeymoon.

Gift to the groom

When Courtney Pesha married her husband, Anthony, on New Year’s Eve 2010, she gave him a wedding gift they both will cherish forever.

Courtney, a teacher in Downers Grove, and Anthony, a Hometown firefighter, began dating in May 2006. One month later, they got Tank.

Courtney said she knew Anthony was sad to leave the 75-pound boxer out of their wedding celebration, so she arranged with Pawsitively Heaven to have him brought to St. Bernadette Church in Evergreen Park for the ceremony.

The resort staffer first bathed the dog and clipped his nails. Then she snuck him into a room at the back of the church.

After the Peshas exchanged vows and walked as Mr. and Mrs. back down the aisle, they paused to open a closed door.

There was Tank.

“It was unbelievable,” Courtney said. Her new husband gave her a big hug.

“Then he said, ‘I know why I married you,’ ” she said.

Tank stayed with the couple for photos and then was taken back to the resort, where he spent the night and the next 10 days while his newlywed humans honeymooned.

“This is one of the best services Pawsitively Heaven could offer. It means so much to people to be able to include their pets in their wedding,” Courtney said. “This way, you don’t have to ask a family member or a friend to look after them. No one has to miss the ceremony or reception.”

Courtney said when they picked Tank up after their trip, they were handed a report card filled out by Pawsitively Heaven staffers.

“He got an A-plus,” she said.

All in the family

The morning of their June 9 wedding, Debbie Cullotta’s fiance, Phil, took their springer spaniel, Dillon, to Pawsitively Heaven. At the same time, Debbie’s father dropped her parents’ dog off there so the two buddies could keep each other company.

The animals got to stay together overnight in a suite. Before that, though, Dillon was groomed and transported back to the Cullottas’ Oak Lawn home for photos with the bride and groom.

“My dog has been with me since he was 8 weeks old,” Debbie said. “He’s part of our family. I wanted him to be part of the day.”

After the shoot, Dillon was taken back to Pawsitively Heaven, where he spent the night.

Meanwhile, the happy couple got married and had their reception at Seven Bridges in Woodridge. Everyone was happy to see each other again the next day.

When they head to Disney World on their honeymoon next month, Dillon will stay with Debbie’s parents.

Pawsitively Heaven is at
10051 Kitty Ave., Chicago Ridge; (708) 636-3647;
pawsitivelyheavenpetresort.com



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