The bride wore white, the groom showed up sans trousers, and everybody applauded when the happy couple slobbered all over each other after tying the knot.
The wedding of Hope and Hunter, two therapy dogs with an unusually close bond, was one of the happiest events of the year at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, earlier this month.
“Hope has always been Hunter’s special girlfriend, which made us think, ‘Why not have some fun and make it official?’ ” Missy Stover, the hospital’s Child Life volunteer and therapeutic programs manager, tells PEOPLE. “If ever two dogs deserved a wedding, it’s these two.”
Because the two golden retrievers spend 40 hours a week cheering up young patients, “they’re already spending much of their lives together,” says Hope’s handler, Allison Bowring, 29. “Since they first met in 2015, they’ve always been revved up to see each other. There’s a special energy about them.”
So when Stover and other hospital staff proposed a wedding and asked for permission, Bowring and Hunter’s handler, Aimee Hofflander, immediately said, “I do.”
“There were a few pre-wedding jitters,” admits Hofflander, 30, “but they love being around kids and each other, even when they’re stealing each other’s toys.”
About 60 patients and staffers were invited to the nuptials, held in the Children’s Mercy Lisa Barth Chapel on May 18, with the ceremony streamed live to children who couldn’t leave their hospital beds.
“The wedding was a fun way to get the kids more involved in the lives of these two special dogs,” says Stover, 42, who lined up a minister (hospital “pup”-lic relations director Jake Jacobson), balloons, a canine wedding cake and “doggie” bags filled with dog-collar bracelets, stickers, trading cards and bubbles for the guests.
After Hope walked down the aisle, serenaded by the song, “Chapel of Love,” the wedding went off without a hitch or an itch.
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to celebrate Hope and Hunter,” Jacobson said during the ceremony. “Before these witnesses, Hunter takes Hope to be his lawfully wedded doggie bride. They bow-vow to love each other and share their banana and peanut butter together, today, tomorrow and forever.”
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Hunter, who wore a tuxedo collar, and Hope, dressed in a white dress and veil, then shared a dog biscuit, ending the nuptials with a wet kiss, before rolling around on the lawn outside to the delight of their reception guests.
“There’s no other word for it than ‘pawsome,’ ” Stover tells PEOPLE. “They didn’t have a honeymoon, but as long as they’re willing to continue sharing their dog toys for time and all eternity, I suppose that’s really all that matters.”