Canine Wedding Raises $20,000 for Animal Rescue Group

Amid the dog days of summer, this happy Arlington couple barked 'I Do' for a good cause.
Bride And Groom

The happy couple, Stanley and Phoebe, whose Arlington “wedding” raised funds for Homeward Trails Animal Rescue (courtesy photo)

The bride wore a white A-line dress with a tulle skirt and pink flower accent, and the groom donned a tux, despite the soaring temperatures in mid-July.

But you only get married once—hopefully—and Phoebe and Stanley were excited to walk down the aisle in the backyard of Phoebe’s Arlington home after 2 1/2 years of courtship.

Tails wagging and tongues lolling in the summer heat, they barked “I do” and dug into their wedding cake as 75 family members and friends looked on.

Ceremony 3 1

The wedding ceremony with Homeward Trails founder Sue Bell (center) as officiant

Yes, it was a dog wedding—“fun and silly, but it’s also a good cause,” says Abbe Steel, who adopted Phoebe, a 3-year-old terrier mix, from Homeward Trails Animal Rescue two years ago. She and her best friend, Tracy Donley— owner of Stanley, a 5-year-old labradoodle—got the idea for the wedding last year when they saw their pups nuzzling noses like they were kissing. Soon, that bond had evolved into a fundraiser for the organization that rescued Phoebe from her isolated puppyhood in rural Virginia.

Processional Bride 1

Parents of the bride Abbe Steel and Tom Howard walk Phoebe “down the aisle”

Steel and Donley’s fundraising took several forms. There were two raffles—one at Steel’s beach house in Duck, N.C., that raised $13,000, and one at another donor’s beach house in Avalon, N.C. There was also a silent auction at the post-wedding-ceremony “paw-ty.”

In lieu of a registry, Steel and Donley set up a wedding webpage inviting cash donations to Homeward Trails in the happy couple’s honor. According to the page, $25 provides a collar, harness, leash and microchip for one dog; $1,000 provides three months’ care for a mother dog and her puppies, including vaccinations, food and supplies.

So far, they have raised about $20,000, “which is just an unbelievable boon for us during the summer months, when the Homeward Trails medical fund essentially depletes to zero,” says Sue Bell, who founded the rescue operation 21 years ago. The number of sick or injured animals increases during the warmer months, she says, when more kittens are born and respiratory illnesses are more common in shelters.


The handsome groom, Stanley

“It’s a struggle financially to support these animals,” she adds, “and obviously it’s a struggle emotionally for all of us to come off Covid, when every animal was being adopted, to this extreme low, where we’re seeing adoptable animals in front of our faces being euthanized because we just can’t get to them quickly enough.”

Animal shelters regionwide are near or at capacity. A spokesperson for the Animal Welfare League of Arlington (ALWA) says it’s tough to know why numbers are so high, but several factors—including economics and many people traveling during the summer—are contributing to slow adoption rates.

“We have been at capacity and community support has increased. We have had to decrease our transfers-in from other shelters because of the need within our community,” ALWA president and CEO Samuel Wolbert said in an email.

Currently, Homeward Trails has 150 dogs and 150 cats in its care.

“We thought it would be a great opportunity to do something rewarding and meaningful,” Steel says of the wedding, “and tie the cute component of this with a big fundraiser and invite all of our friends here in Arlington to celebrate.”

Wedding Party

The wedding party

In planning, Steel and Donley spared no detail. They even drew up a “Pre Puptial Agreement,” stipulating that the dogs will live in separate homes, share belly rubs jointly and consider all assets—tennis balls, sticks and stolen socks—as separate, non-marital property.

And “in the event that either mother-in-law becomes a little too… let’s just say involved in the relationship, the annoyed spouse may refuse play dates and stay home in bed,” it adds.

Bell officiated the wedding, which took place the evening of Saturday, July 15.   A dachshund named Homer, whom a friend adopted from Homeward Trails, served as ringbearer, thanks to a pillow on his back, secured with a strap around his belly.

After the ceremony, human guests enjoyed a full buffet and bar, including dishes such as PAWtastic PAWsta (penne with tomato-vodka sauce and broccolini) and A Little Ruff-age (baby spinach with strawberries, walnuts and goat cheese). The cocktail offerings included barkaritas (margaritas) and the Holy Shih Tzu, made with light rum, Cointreau, lime juice and grenadine.

Of course, there will be a honeymoon: The two families are traveling together to the Outer Banks next month.

“We all have grown kids…and they all think we’re a little crazy, but we’ve raised some real money and raised a lot of awareness,” Steel says.

To read more about this doggone goofy love story and make a donation to Homeward Trails’ pet rescue efforts, visit Phoebe and Stanley’s wedding website



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Categories: Community, Pets