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Furry Flower Girl!
Groomer Julie Wilkins Included Her Dog In Wedding Party! 

Gloucester, MA—When Julie Wilkins Pantages decided to have her dog Emmy be the Flower Girl in her wedding, she wasn’t aware that she was part of a growing trend—she just wanted to include an important family member in the happiest day of her life! But Julie’s not alone: a recent survey from the American Kennel Club (AKC) found that 18 percent of dog owners will include or have included their dog in their wedding.  

Dogs are an important part of Julie’s life; she runs her own business, Best in Show Grooming operating out of Gloucester, Massachusetts. Julie began to focus on dog grooming as early as high school, when she studied it as a section of her class in horse care at Essex Agricultural High School. She’s won many awards for her grooming, including the title of Cardinal Crystal American Groomer of the Year in 2007, the grooming equivalent to an actor winning a Best Actor Oscar.

Known formally as Champion My Deer Grand Illusion CD. CGC, Emmy was Julie’s first Standard Poodle. Julie has two other dogs: another white Standard Poodle, Chase, who is Emmy’s son, and a black Mini Poodle named Tucker. “I love the boys, but Emmy’s my special girl,” Julie says. 

Together, Julie and Emmy won Intergroom in 2006, where groomers perform a complete groom that’s then judged to strict standards. Winning the competition is one of the highest honors in the grooming industry and Julie couldn’t have done it without Emmy, as a model, but also as a practice companion. “I tell people that Emmy has been my greatest teacher,” Julie says. “She really has taught me everything I know about grooming.”

Julie’s fiancé Scott Pantages, now husband, agreed that having Emmy in the wedding was only fitting, even if his friends might tease him a bit. While he wasn’t a “dog person” when he and Julie first met, he’s come to love the Poodles as his own. “He gets really upset when his friends make fun of them and their haircuts!” Julie says. “He loves his poodles though, and he loved having Emmy in the wedding!”

As for the guests, they thought Flower Girl Emmy was pretty hysterical, if a little predictable. According to Julie, “Some people expected it, but even my friends that didn’t thought it was cute and different. Everyone got a good chuckle out of it.” Many of her friends from the dog world attended the wedding, and understood, including Barbara Deer who flew in from Pittsburgh and performed as Emmy’s handler.

One of Julie’s grooming clients even volunteered their beachside property, complete with gazebo, for the wedding. Luckily, pet restrictions and regulations weren’t an issue. “I knew from the beginning that I wanted Emmy in the wedding no matter what, and everything worked out. Since the owners were dog people themselves, they knew what to expect.”

While Julie didn’t have to worry about her flower girl getting her dress dirty or wrinkly, having your dog in a wedding does take a little bit of work—especially if you’re her groomer. “I think I took longer to groom her than myself!” Julie says the first thing she did the morning of her wedding was to go down in the shop and groom her dog. Once Emmy’s cut and style was perfect, Julie placed a wreath of flowers on her neck, finishing the look. After Emmy was groomed, only then was Julie able to begin getting herself ready.

Emmy has the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen certificate, and, for the most part, she was on her best behavior. The only time she slipped away from her holder’s grasp was while the photographer was taking pictures of the wedding party after the ceremony. Emmy ran immediately over to Julie, and ended up in a few extra pictures. “She loves being in the spotlight, but she was still really good and well-behaved.” Julie says.

Emmy’s in the spotlight at Julie’s shop, where a framed photo shows her with the wedding couple. “People see the photo and laugh, but they understand it too, people really care about their pets,” Julie says. The photo has even inspired other dog owners. When one client saw the photo, she was inspired, booking an appointment with Julie on her own wedding day for her furry flower girl. In fact, with the AKC survey finding that people under 30 are 17 percent more likely to feature their furry friends in a wedding, a four-legged groomsmen or bridesmaid might be much more than just a trend!

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