Walkies down the aisle... Batterstown woman making sure precious pets don't miss out on loving owners' big day
OLIVIA KING ONER
A Batterstown woman who chaperones and cares for dogs on the day their owners get married says her canine loving couples are going barking mad for her services.
PetiGo is a wedding day dog service established by Melissa Gallagher who worked in healthcare for over 30 years before unleashing her talents on a new career.
Melissa studied Animal Care and Grooming at Dunboyne College of Further Education (DCFE) and is certified in Canine First Aid.
While undertaking her studies she came across an old Singer sewing machine and began making bandanas, a venture that evolved into weddings and special occasions, from graduations to birthdays and even communions. “I love making pet wear and dog sitting. This way I got to marry the two - excuse the pun.”
“It started with me looking at YouTube videos,” she said, “and became very interested in doggy blankets and bandanas.” From there she started making pet bandanas as a hobby for family and friends. “I got creative with my designs and gifted a few to some doggy influencers. It wasn't until I gifted one to a wedding couple that interest from others came my way. I was beside myself with excitement!”
For Melissa and her canine clientele, a typical wedding day involves much preparation. “The first thing we do is a meet and greet, either at their house or mine. I also bring little gift packs. Lightweight bowties, collars, leads etc.. This way they get used to it before the big day.”
With an interest in dog behaviour and communication, and a small beagle terrier mix called Benji, it's no surprise that the dog lover is a favourite among the canine community. Melissa recalled her most recent meet and greet with a couple and their cockapoo, Sammy. “He was a little shy and curious at first but after a few cuddles there wasn't a bother on him. A few days later I was at the dog park with Benji when this little bundle came running over to me. It was Sammy! I was thrilled that he recognised us!”
PetiGo offers a number of wedding packages which include chaperoning and 'home from home' style board for dogs while the newlyweds are on their honeymoon. With a 'sniffari' garden (sensory park for dogs) and fields that offer long lead walks, Melissa ensures each pet has her full undivided love and attention. And unless the bridal couple say otherwise, the lovable rogue Benji also gets to play and socialise with the wedding dogs, keeping them company.
On the day of the wedding, Melissa makes sure that the dogs arrive in style, acting as chauffer as well as liaison at the venue. In fact, pets can avail of tailored license plates announcing their arrival, using either titles dog of honour or best dog. “I also have two suitcases in the boot in case anything goes wrong. Spare ties, toys, even a needle and thread!”
Dressed in lace, silk and doggy cologne, these four-legged guests get to indulge and celebrate the union of their owners. For some furry companions though, it's not all fun and games. Some dogs have important ring-bearing duties but with treat in hand Melissa is there for them every step of the way.
From floral collars and leads to tuxedo bowties and bandanas, Melissa has her clients looking neat and dapper. “I really try to go for that ooh ah paw factor!” she laughed. When it comes to capturing the special moment, she makes sure that they get the perfect photographs. “I'd be standing behind the photographer with a squeaky toy to get the dog's attention. I'm sure I drive them nuts!”
Back in February PetiGo was selected as a finalist for Wedding Suppliers 2023. “I was suffering from imposter syndrome. I was the only dog catering service there!” Although PetiGo didn't secure a win, Melissa said she was grateful for the opportunity. “It was a fantastic experience. I was absolutely delighted to be picked.”
In recent years it seems the wedding pet service is gaining much popularity in Ireland. “I think it's the fact that hotels are becoming more and more pet friendly,” said Melissa. “So now couples can have their pets with them on their special occasion.”
PetiGo is based in Batterstown and operates locally in Meath. Having started her wedding service in 2022, Melissa has had 24 weddings booked for this year, eight for next year and even a few in 2025. “I'm all booked out!”
For wedding couples, they want to be surrounded by the ones they love. And for pet owners tying the knot, having their dog there on their special day is no exception.