Barks instead of bouquets

Wednesday, May 22, 2019
A wedding for the books, Sally Burky and Cary Smith decided to use sheltered dogs in their wedding to bring attention to homeless, abandoned and stray pets. From left to right: Autumn Radford, Crystal Konrad, Kari Smith, Hailey Cook (flower girl), Sara Cook, Paige Whitcomb, Sally Burky, Casey Burky (flower girl), Cary Smith, Caleb Burky, Andrew Hutcheson, Cole Porter, Cory Burky, Dillon Hanafin. Photo by The Honey & Bee Photography/Special to the Cassville Democrat

Burky: ‘What better way to get some of these dogs adopted?’

Shelter dogs from the Haven of the Ozarks Animal Sanctuary got some much needed publicity recently, as a bride from Springfield decided to have her bridesmaids walk down the aisle with dogs instead of flowers.

Sherah Farris, director of operations at Haven of the Ozarks Animal Sanctuary, said it was a really fun wedding, and it was the second time the Haven was able to do it.

What more do you need on your wedding day than a puppy grin? Sally Burky and Cary Smith recently got married and walked down the aisle not with flowers, but with fur. The wedding party held shelter dogs to help bring awareness to the Haven of the Ozarks Animal Sanctuary. This pup got a belly rub from Maid of Honor Paige Whitcomb, standing next to flower girl Casey Burky. The Honey & Bee Photography/Special to the Cassville Democrat

“The first time was in October,” she said. “It is always amazing to get to do something like that.”

Farris said when she got married nine years ago, people were less aware of abandoned animals.

“As people become more aware of the homeless pets, especially in this area, they want to do something to help,” she said. “This is something that they can do.

Sally Burky and her new husband Cary Smith tied the knot on May 11, and instead of beautiful bouquets for the bridesmaids to hold, they held beautiful pups with wagging tails. The Honey & Bee Photography/Special to the Cassville Democrat

“People who do this would rather spend their money on donating money to the animals and raising awareness for them.”

Farris said she feels like that really motivates people.

“This wedding was May 11, and Sally contacted me in March,” she said. “She wanted to do something to help the Haven out.

“People prefer no-kill shelters because we keep the animals as long as they need.”

Farris said there were five dogs used in the wedding.

“It was actually very complicated because these animals are not trained,” she said. “To expect them to behave for a wedding is very difficult.

“I don’t pick the animals until the week of the wedding, because I won’t hold an animal from being adopted for an event.”

Farris said she does try to pick dogs that are good with other dogs, and they need to be healthy.

“The five dogs I picked worked out perfectly,” she said. “They had a hard time at first because it had wood floors, but they were calm.”

Farris said Sally had tailored the wedding to have the dogs there, so it was very short.

“After the wedding the dogs were set up by the entrance so that people could stop by and see them,” she said. “We actually got some donations.”

Farris said they received a $200 check by a guest at the wedding, and Sally donated the money from her dollar dance to the Haven of the Ozarks Animal Sanctuary.

“Sally donates pretty regularly,” she said. “So far, none of the dogs used in the wedding have been adopted yet, but we are hoping that publicity will help them get adopted.”

Farris said this last weekend was national adoption weekend at PetSmart, and a dog named Coda, who was used in the wedding, went to the event.

“We want people to be aware that we are here and they have the option to adopt,” he said. “People all the time just accidentally find out about us, and we want more attention for these animals.

“The more that people know about us, the more they are willing to adopt and donate.”

Farris said Haven of the Ozarks Animal Sanctuary is supported completely by donations and people generosity.

Sally Burky, the bride who made this event possible, said she has not adopted from the Haven of the Ozarks Animal Sanctuary, but she and her new husband both agreed their next adoption will be through the Haven.

“Though I’ve never adopted, we contribute and donate as frequently as we can,” she said. “Our relationship with the Haven began when they took in two dogs I rescued from a bad situation. I have stayed close to them ever since.

“They are all such wonderful people working for a phenomenal organization. They work so hard, and it impresses me each time we go visit.”

Burky said they raised $210 at the dollar dance and are donating it all to Haven.

“Initially, I wanted our own dogs in the wedding to stand by our sides,” she said. “When I looked into ways of incorporating dogs and different options for bridesmaids instead of bouquets, puppies popped up on Pinterest. I immediately reached out to Haven and asked if this is something they would be interested in doing for us, and they quickly responded, absolutely.

“What better way to promote an amazing rescue and also possibly get some of these dogs adopted?”

Burky said she cried when the volunteers from Haven began unloading their van.

“It meant so much to me,” she said. “It finally was real that those innocent dogs needing homes, were attributing to making our wedding day one for the books.”

Burky said the wedding was everything and more than she and her husband both imagined.

“The ceremony was scheduled to be very quick in case any of the dogs get anxious,” she said. “Each and every one of them did amazing, and our guests absolutely loved it. I believe two guests have been in talks with the Haven about coming down to meet with some of the dogs again. That makes us so happy.”

Burky said it was their absolute pleasure having adolescent and senior dogs from Haven of the Ozarks be in the wedding.

“We are hoping to spread the word how important it is for us to be their voice, and advocate for such a wonderful sanctuary,” she said. “Thank you again Haven. We will be seeing you soon.”

For more information about donations, adoptions and similar events people may contact the Haven of the Ozarks Animal Sanctuary at 417-835-3647, or by email at Also, follow their Facebook page at Haven of the Ozarks Animal Sanctuary.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: