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With this ring…

By Staff | May 23, 2009

he wedding music begins, the guests rise and here comes . . .

Moose, a yellow Labrador, wagging his tail while walking down the aisle.

For better or for worse, dogs are becoming the new nontraditional members of wedding parties. Many couples wouldn’t dream of leaving their favorite dog out of their special day. Michelle (Shelly) Nassen and Jason Lamusga certainly felt this way when they were planning their Aug. 24, 2007 outdoor wedding.

When couples are considering their wedding attendants, they generally select family members, a college buddy, people they work with or a best friend. Since man’s best friend is the dog, Shelly and Jason’s loyal companion, Moose, was the couple’s logical choice to stand-up for them. This best friend knows all their secrets and promises never to tell them. He also has always been very protective and a great hunting buddy, so what more could a couple ask for in an attendant.

“Moose has basically been like our child. He is part of our family and is extremely spoiled. Where we go the dog goes,” says Shelly. “Once I got the idea to include him in our wedding, no other consideration was made for who our ring bearer would be.”

Shelly and Jason selected Moose as their pet when he was a mere nine weeks old. At the time of their marriage he was just 21 months old.

“We picked him because he was so lively in the kennel. In fact, he bit me,” recalls Shelly. Now he is the couple’s pride and joy. He is also quite mellow unless he sees a pheasant. Then he’s ready for some serious hunting. Strictly a pheasant hunting dog, Shelly says she can’t remember how many birds he has under his belt, but it’s a lot.

“Jason works for a concrete company, so his work is somewhat seasonal,” says Shelly. Because of this, Jason has had the time to train Moose, whether to pheasant hunt or to be obedient. As a result, Moose has always behaved well around people and is a very friendly, gentle and protective dog.

When Shelly first mentioned to her mother, Cala Nassen, she and Jason wanted Moose to be in the wedding party, her mother was a little concerned.

Her mother says, “When I first heard Shelly wanted Moose in the wedding party I thought she was crazy. I told Shelly I didn’t want Moose to take away from her special day.”

But Shelly was bound and determined to have Moose be her ring bearer. To her, the worst case scenario would be if the dog stepped on her dress with a dirty paw. This did not worry her in the least as she would just have the gown cleaned.

As the couple finalized their wedding plans Shelly says “it seemed only logical for Moose to carry something since he was the ring bearer.”

With the help of her soon-to-be mother-in-law, Mary Lamusga, two bone-shaped pillows were fashioned from fabric and filled with quilt batting. One was of a sturdy fabric so Jason could practice with Moose prior to the event, but the second pillow was made from satin for the wedding.

Jason practiced with Moose in the backyard for a couple of months in preparation for the big day. Unfortunately, Moose could not grasp the concept of holding the bone in his mouth, so a ribbon was attached to the pillow and hung about his neck. To match the other guys in the wedding party, Moose also wore a black bow tie.

Even though she trusted Moose to be an attentive attendant, Shelly did not trust him enough to carry the actual wedding rings. These were entrusted to Jason’s brother, Ryan.

Another thing Jason did to ready his best friend for the wedding was to purchase a special shampoo which whitened and added luster to Moose’s already shiny coat.

The key to having a dog in a wedding is to plan ahead so there are no surprises lurking on the premises. The only concern Shelly had with Moose was if a flock of geese were to fly overhead during the ceremony at Maple Island Park, which is located right by the Mississippi River. With this in mind, she and Jason made sure Moose was on a leash at all times under the direction of Jason’s brother, Brad. Moose has known Brad all of his life, so they were comfortable with each other.

Another concern the bridal couple had was if Moose should decide to take a flying leap into the river only to return with a drenched coat just before they were to proceed down the aisle. To keep him under control and not run for the water, Brad had a stash of doggie treats in his pocket as rewards for good behavior and to keep Moose at his side and attentive during the ceremony.

“We had a really quick run-through right before the service with Moose and the rest of the bridal party,” recalls Shelly. While they were getting lined-up for this, neighbors of Mary and Joe Lamusga saw Brad wearing sunglasses and being led by Moose around the grounds.

Chuckling, Shelly says, “they asked Mary and Joe what had happened to Brad. They thought he needed a seeing-eye dog.”

Brad and Moose wound-up being the first ‘couple’ to walk down the aisle because there was an uneven number of attendants. With treats in his trouser pocket readily available, Brad and Moose took their position.

“Standing next to Brad you could almost read Moose’s mind,” says Shelly. “He was saying to himself ‘I know what I’m supposed to get now.'”

Nothing seemed to phase Moose during the ceremony. He just went with the flow of the service. He did growl a couple of times when there were geese nearby on the water, but Shelly says as long as Moose didn’t see or smell a pheasant or hear a gunshot, she knew he would not bolt.

“Moose did really well and didn’t detract from the wedding service until about halfway through the ceremony,” says Shelly. It was at this point that he became annoyed or bored with the bone-shaped pillow hanging around his neck.

“Trying to rip the bone off was one of the highlights of the wedding ceremony for our guests,” says Shelly. “People were watching him and not us.”

Even though the family was a little skeptical at first about having Moose in the wedding, when it was all said and done, he behaved better than the flower girl.

Dogs are a big part in people’s lives and they should be included in big moments. Shelly and Jason Lamusga will have wonderful memories as they look through their wedding album and remember how great it was to have their best friend by their side. Man’s best friend, their dog…Moose.