Note: The story has been edited to show that Mina is a Belgian Malinese and that Reliable was adopted by Stray Rescue of St. Louis.
Carolyn Kirk didn’t want a big wedding.
She didn’t want bridesmaids. She didn’t want to get married in a church. And she didn’t want to waste money on an expensive place.
Instead, she wanted her wedding day to reflect her true personality. So, she decided to get married at the Northern Nevada SPCA in Reno.
“It almost came as a joke, but I said, let’s go,” Kirk, 28, said Wednesday – the day before his wedding ceremony. “If I did it in a chapel it wouldn’t be so exciting for me. It wouldn’t be that perfect.
Related:Reno’s gym manager shares message of kindness in viral Facebook video
Related:Your dog could be semi-semi-famous on a mural in downtown Reno
Related:How popular is your dog? Here are the 25 best Reno-Sparks breeds and names
Kirk and her future husband, Cameron Grischott, both volunteer with the Churchill Animal Protection Society.
“We were actually sitting having lunch one day, and trying to figure out where we wanted to have our ceremony,” Grischott said. “We are not very religious people. We figured if we both worked in relief shelters we would ask all agencies in the area.
“It would be something that represents us and who we are.”
The couple live in Fallon. They plan to hold a small gathering at the ceremony, followed by three wedding receptions to ensure their friends and family have a chance to attend.
“We thought about why pay a business for a place when we can donate to the SPCA,” he said.
Grischott said they sent out around 100 invitations, but most of their guests live in various parts of the country. Kirk and Grischott’s families understood why they wanted to get married in a pet shelter.
“It’s something they weren’t surprised about,” Grischott said. “They might have been shocked at first, but then they said, ‘No, that’s where you both belong. “”
Kirk said she has been interested in saving animals since she was in high school. She first started volunteering at Stray Rescue of St. Louis in St. Louis, Missouri.
“I’ve always been interested in this,” Kirk said. “I read about it in high school and the psychology between people who treat animals badly and people who treat people badly.”
“How can you abuse something that comes back to you with 100% love?” Kirk said she would often ask herself that question. “I couldn’t understand, so I started to think about it.
“As humans, we place animals lower on the totem pole. We put dogs, cats and other animals below us.
Grischott said most of the rescued pets are homeless or have been abused.
“There are so many dogs and so many stories,” he said. “(Carolyn) can sit there and tell you story after story about all the different dogs and all the ways they are rehabilitated.
Kirk eventually began working for the Stray Rescue of St. Louis.
“She’s definitely more involved than I am when it comes to rescues,” Grischott said of her fiance. “I try to volunteer and make sure all the animals we have are from a rescue or are on their way to a rescue shelter. We wanted to prevent them from going to the shelter.
Kirk said she met Grischott through a dating site. They got to know each other online and finally met.
“We talked for a while and finally got on a first date,” Kirk said. “He taught me how to shoot, and we got along well that day. So we continued to see each other.
For Kirk, it was important that his mix of American Bulldog and 10-year-old American Pit Bull, Reliable, got on with Grischott. She adopted Reliable from Stray Rescue of St. Louis after being found abandoned in a dump while waiting for her owners to return.
“I was at Carolyn’s one day and Reliable was in her cage,” Grischott said. “I sat down and talked to him. I said, ‘Look, you and I have to be friends because it’s not going to work out very well if we’re not friendly.’ “
“And that meant a lot to me,” Kirk added. “With Reliable, it’s about protecting his home and the people he loves. We present it to other people.
“He has brain damage and he has emotional damage from being in the shelter,” she said. “He’s very smart and he knows what he wants. He knows how to press buttons and he will test you.
“If he gets mad, I carry him like (a baby), if that makes him feel better.” He acts like a child and we treat him like a child. He is the only one to have table scraps. When I’m done eating, that’s when he can eat. He receives a lot of love and attention.
Grischott and Kirk also have three other dogs: Kali and Freyja, both 5 months old, and Mina, 4 years old. The couple adopted Kali and Freyja, both pit bull and mastiff mix puppies, from a family that couldn’t care for them.
Mina, a Belgian Malinois, was found wandering the Bay Area. Grischott adopted the dog from a shelter.
“She was lined up to be shot,” Grischott said. “The people at the shelter were afraid to open the cage door because it would get aggressive.
“I picked it up and brought it back to Nevada. She didn’t really leave my sight after that. If she had a choice, she would be right next to me all the time.
Angela Rudolph, spokesperson for the Northern Nevada SPCA, said she hopes the marriage will inspire others to adopt. She said the couple approached the organization late last year.
They wanted to focus on giving and helping animals, she said.
“It’s a really cool way to start a marriage, saving the lives of homeless animals,” Rudolph said. “They are bringing attention to pet adoptions at a time when people are not thinking about it.”
The couple plan to take their wedding photos with the animals at the shelter.
“I hope the animals are adopted a little faster than they normally would, especially animals that are generally neglected,” Rudolph said.
The couple also donated the money they would have used to pay for a place at the shelter. They also asked their friends and family to donate.
“The donations they have made to us will go directly to saving and rescuing a homeless pet,” said Rudolph. “Each animal we save costs an average of about $ 430 to save.
“Every animal we save is microchipped, vaccinated and cared for. And sometimes we have pets with medical needs, and the money is also used to pay for that. “
The Northern Nevada SPCA welcomes pets in rural shelters in an effort to reduce euthanasia rates. The no-kill organization houses between 100 and 150 animals at any given time. This includes pets living in foster care, Rudolph said.
“Our average length of stay for all rescued pets is around 17 days, from the time we get them from the rural shelter until they are adopted,” she said.
Rudolph said the Northern Nevada SPCA ran an engagement program about a year and a half ago. But this will be the first wedding ceremony at the shelter. The ceremony will take place in one of the play areas of the refuge near the kennels.
“We love this idea,” Rudolph said.
The ring bearer will be a 10 year old Labrador retriever mix named Babaloo. The goal is to allow people to view rescued animals in a different setting outside of a cage, Grischott said.
“We take the dogs out of the actual kennels,” he said. “We want people to realize that some of these dogs are the most loving dogs you will ever meet.”
Kirk and Grischott said they plan to welcome dogs over the age of 11.
“I don’t like to see dogs in their last days sitting in a kennel waiting to leave,” Grischott said. “We want to give them a place to enjoy their last days.
“If we could afford to just take all the dogs out of the shelter and have them at home, we would. “
The couple built their own wedding arch and altar. They said they hope more people will volunteer or donate to a local pet shelter.
“People don’t realize that a few cans and peanut butter go a long way in a shelter,” Grischott said.
Kirk said more people should at least volunteer their time. She said spending time with the animals can help them get used to human interaction.
“Sitting with a dog and reading to him makes a difference,” she said. “Reading a manual aloud to a dog may not seem like much, but it helps the dog. They are so excited when the page turns. They put their noses in the book.
Kirk said she never imagined her wedding ceremony would take place at a pet shelter. She said she never even thought about marriage until she met Grischott.
“It’s not fancy,” Kirk said. “We don’t try to make it super chic. It’s just not who we are.
“Until I met Cameron, I thought I would end up being the Mad Lady of Dogs. Right after we started talking about getting married, that’s when I started being there. think, I’m not going to do with it what I don’t want.