Groomer Julie Wilkins Included Her Dog In Wedding Party!
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
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