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Just Hitched

A Winooski pet-grooming boutique opens its services to “I do”

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Bryson enters the room, and Eva, who’s been lounging in the corner, jumps up to greet him. The two share a quick kiss, then sit down to cuddle. It’s not unusual behavior for newlyweds less than a month after their wedding vows ... except that Bryson and Eva are standard poodles.

The furry duo tied the knot at Winooski’s Bow Meow Pet Grooming Boutique on February 27. Owned by Cindy Cross, the small shop offers dog and cat haircuts, hot oil treatments and oatmeal baths, grooming classes for would-be stylists — and now, pet weddings.

Bryson and Eva, who belong to Cross and Bow Meow groomer Brittany Collins, respectively, grew up together. They “really do love each other,” says Cross, who opened the boutique 11 years ago. “They are so psyched to see each other when we bring them to work.”

But it never occurred to her to unite them in marriage — until Collins proposed the wedding as a creative styling challenge for the grooming school students.

Pet weddings are a growing phenomenon in bigger cities, explains Cross, and Vermont is “kind of an artsy place anyway, so we thought, What the heck, why not?

Thirty-five guests (both human and non-) attended the ceremony, held in Bow Meow’s front room. The groom sported a dyed tuxedo pattern on his fluffy white coat, and the bride was adorned with a veil, French manicure, dyed pink ears and dyed flowers on her hips.

“From a grooming standpoint, the dogs looked really nice,” says wedding guest Jazz Heath, a groomer at Colchester’s A Passion for Pets. “It was nice to see people having fun with their dogs ... I think there are some people out there who will think it’s crazy, but just as many who will think it’s fun.”

From the doggie vows to the first dance (set to a version of “Puppy Love”), the wedding “was a blast,” says Cross, laughing. “People loved it. [We thought,] There must be some other fools that’d do this.” So she’s now offering the service to all lovestruck cats and dogs — or, more likely, to people looking to pamper their pets.

“We will do pretty much close to anything they want — even a civil union” or same-sex marriage, she continues. If your feline fancies a wedding in the Bahamas, Bow Meow will set the scene with decorative wall hangings. They’ll even provide a maid of honor — human or animal — for your Maltese. “It can be as silly as you want it — and that’s the fun part,” Cross says. “Dogs love it because dogs love attention.”

Bow Meow — and Vermont itself — may be new to the pet wedding biz, but Alma Rose Middleton isn’t. A “Pet and People Wedding Officiant/Celebrant” based in Santa Barbara, Calif., Middleton has planned a dozen elaborate animal weddings in the last year and a half.

“It’s exactly like a regular wedding,” she explains, “but you pluck out people and plug in dogs.” Signature features include the ring ceremony (“the exchange of collars”) and pronouncing the pets “husbone and woof.” But the fuzzy festivities can run a pretty penny. “It can cost thousands,” Middleton says. “I’ve never had one that cost less.”

Things are, of course, a little different in the Green Mountains. “I think that’s just way, way too much money,” opines Cross, noting that her celebrations “wouldn’t cost anything close to that,” since she’ll be using her own facility and doing all the grunt work.

Cross, who recently organized the first Vermont Groomers Association meeting, also says the weddings are as much to draw attention to the work of stylists as for the animals themselves. “I’d like to see groomers work elsewhere besides a back room,” she explains. “You have to have creativity and talent to do this job. I think some people have not been well-educated about what we do; they think we just play with animals all day.”

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