When Sally Burky started planning her wedding, she knew she wanted to include something a little different in the ceremony.
Like many brides-to-be, Burky went to Pinterest for some inspiration.
“I was searching different options other than bouquets and puppies popped up on Pinterest. I thought how neat it would be to not only have puppies, but adolescent, and senior dogs as well!” Burky told PEOPLE.
The idea was a perfect fit for the Ozark, Missouri dental assistant and her husband.
“I’ve always had a soft spot for animals, but it was after I rescued a pit bull puppy, that we [Sally and her now-husband] started dating. He treated him so well, and that’s when I knew, he was the one,” she said. “Now Tank, (the pit puppy) lives with us on our family farm as a happy 9-year-old. Since we’ve been together we have always fostered, taken in rescues, and spread the word of adoption.”
Instead of puppies or bouquets, Burky opted to have her bridesmaids carry older shelter dogs down the aisle. All of the dogs came from Haven of the Ozarks, an animal rescue that Burky often donates to and visits.
“I have been donating to Haven for the last 8 years, and try to drive down to Cassville 3-4 times a year but will attend their local adoption events near our home if I don’t have the time to make the trip,” the 29-year-old bride said, adding that she first heard of Haven of the Ozarks when the rescue helped her find homes for two neglected dogs. “Seeing their sanctuary and how each one of their volunteers treats the animals made me feel so confident that this was the rescue I was going to support.”
On the big day, seeing the shelter dogs come down the aisle had a touching emotional effect on Burky and her guests.
“It was incredible. I was already emotional from having our first look with my now husband, and then seeing the dogs being unloaded … I just couldn’t hold back the tears,” Burky said. “They were tears of happiness that they were here to be a part of my day, and, in some way, I was a part of their day too. I wanted to show what sweet and well behaved animals the Haven has to offer as companions for individuals and families.”
Burky’s unique choice was a success, many of the dogs who participated in her wedding — dogs who were having trouble finding homes — have now been adopted out to loving forever families. The bride and groom also collected donations for the rural rescue on their wedding day.
It’s great news for the canines, Haven of the Ozarks and Burky, who wanted her guests to leave her wedding understanding the magic of rescue pets and how easy it can be to help these animals.
“Animals don’t have a voice, but we do. By having them in our wedding I wanted to share my compassion and show how important it is for us to be their voice. They count on us. I thought, maybe, by having them in our wedding just one might get adopted. With that adoption that is one more opening for another rescue,” Burky said. “It’s a never-ending cycle, but I’m hoping I can make a small impact. There are so many assistance programs out there to help with the cost of spay and neuter surgeries, I wish they were advertised more. It’s so important to have your companions fixed so maybe one day our local shelters and rescues won’t constantly be overwhelmed with residents.” Haven of the Ozarks is touched by Burky’s gesture to raise awareness about all the amazing shelter animals out there looking for homes, and loved taking part in the bride’s big moment. “It’s a lot of fun for the dogs we brought and I think the guests really enjoyed it too,” Jennifer Silverberg of Haven of the Ozarks told PEOPLE. “We plan to use the donations they give us to go towards the fund for a new mobile adoption van. Ours is on it’s last leg and it is vital for getting our dogs and cats out to larger cities for mobile adoption events every weekend to give them a better chance at finding homes!”
To learn more about Haven of the Ozarks and their work, visit the no-kill rescue’s website.