Americans love their dogs. It’s estimated at least 40 percent of us own dogs, and many treat them like members of the family. It’s no wonder some couples want to include their furry friends in one of the most important days of their lives.

There wasn’t even a question that Alexzandria Bloom of Yakima would include 5-year-old Duke in her wedding. She’s had the Black Lab-Weimaraner mix ever since he was a puppy and they have a special bond. Alexzandria says, “He is more than a dog to me and my family. I got him right before I was diagnosed with chronic migraines. He has been my little sidekick and fur hero for the worst parts of my life. I refused to let anyone tell me he couldn’t be there!”

Her friends and family know how much Duke means to her, and she says it brought everyone joy to see him following her around at the wedding. Not only did he pose for formal pictures, Duke photo-bombed many other pictures that day.

Including Duke in the wedding went smoothly for Alexzandria, but as Yakima dog trainer Susan Signor says, “There can be unexpected happenings when you’ve got animals.” Tori and Josh Bower have a doozy of a wedding story, thanks to their 6-year-old Siberian husky Addy. They got married in 2017 at the Elk Ridge campground in Naches. Things went smoothly at first, with Addy bringing smiles to everyone as she trotted through the crowd in her special blue bandana.

But as Tori and Josh were exchanging vows, Addy wandered into the Naches River and was swept away by the current. An alert bridesmaid spotted Addy floating downstream and pulled her to safety as the minister seamlessly continued with the bride and groom’s vows. Surprisingly, Tori says, “Only a small portion of the guests even noticed that Addy was in danger, but it made for a great story during the reception!”

Dog trainer Susan says this is a common problem. “People often assume their dog will be just fine because the dog loves everyone, and is not a problem, but as in this example, the water was an attractive place for the dog and they may have not thought about how exciting it would be for the dog to jump in the water.”

Susan says if you want to have your dog in your wedding, first make sure it will be able to tolerate a crowd. Not every dog is going to be comfortable at a wedding with lots of strangers and unfamiliar noises and smells. It’s also crucial to have a dog wrangler, she adds, “a person who the animal is comfortable with, has a rapport with, and who can be responsible to make sure that the animal has all of its needs met and can stay out of harm’s way.” The wrangler should be prepared to take the dog home or to a safe place if things go south.

Heidi and Rob Meinecke have a great story about their dog wrangler. They included their Doberman Gucci in their wedding at Spring Creek Homestead in Union Gap. Rob has always had a soft spot for his “baby girl” Gucci, so Heidi decided to surprise him, and pretended Gucci was staying home as she secretly planned for the dog to appear with Seahawks tickets around her neck as a gift for Rob.

The problem was — how to get Gucci there without Rob knowing. Heidi says, “I’m pretty sure my dad Leroy, who was coming from the Tri-Cities, was the only one who could handle this job. Imagine breaking into a house with a Doberman you’ve hardly met, putting it on leash, then getting it into your car —all while wearing a suit in 100-degree August heat!” But somehow it worked. “It was absolutely amazing how it turned out,” she says. “Father of the bride to the rescue.”

Bryna and Jeff McFadden of Selah are both animal lovers and she says there was no question about making their dogs a part of their oceanside wedding in Long Beach. She made aqua-colored ties for their German Shepherd Colt and their Black Lab Caliber, to match the color scheme. And in a leap of faith, she says, “We had our ring bearer bring the dogs down, which we were a little hesitant about, but he did great. It went pretty flawless!”

So go ahead, make your woofer part of your wedding — just make sure you and your dog are prepared. As Heidi says, “Our special day just wouldn’t have been the same without our furry friend.”