Tampa General therapy dogs wed in howly muttrimony
Every dog has its day, but not every pooch has a wedding day. For Blake Cowan, a 5-year-old American Lab and Chicklet "Boom Boom" Dickens, a 6-year-old Chihuahua/Daschund/Pekingese mix, their day finally came, thanks to staff at Tampa General Hospital. The therapy dogs at TGH exchanged bow wow vows in a mock wedding at the hospital to bring smiles to the faces of patients and staff, said TGH spokeswoman Ellen Fiss. Chicklet and Blake's owners, Pam Dickens and Ruth Cowan, have been taking the dogs to TGH every Thursday morning for years to comfort hospitalized children. The dogs also visit H. Lee Moffitt Cancer.The canines were supported Thursday by their closest friends, all dressed in wedding day garb. There was Blaze, a greyhound, who served as "best dog" in tuxedo and sunglasses; and flower dog Simba and maid of honor Samantha, both golden retrievers. The bride, dressed in a wedding gown, veil and pearl necklace, and the groom, clad in a top hat and tux with cuff links, listened intently while Rosana Rivera, a pediatric social worker at the hospital, presided over the five-minute furry exchange. "Do you Blake, take Chicklet to be your lawfully wedded wife? To forsake other puppy tales for as long as you both shall sniff?" Rivera asked. "And Chicklet, do you take Blake to be your husband, even though he goes to Fuzzie Buddies without you?" And with that, the furry couple exchanged rings that went on their paws. "It's so wonderful," said Rocio Conguta, whose son, Jared, is a patient at TGH. "I didn't think this was really going to happen. But it's so wonderful for all the children. [The hospital] is a very sad place for kids. But look at all these smiles. This takes their mind off what is happening to them here. I'm so glad we came." Kristina Wendt's son attended the ceremony to wish the furry couple well. But she also attended to show her gratitude. Wendt's son, 8-year-old Robert, spent six weeks at TGH recovering from an E. coli blood infection. "My son held their [paws] every day for six weeks," said Wendt. "They would come in and sit on his bed and comfort him. We love these dogs. They're remarkable. We wouldn't have missed this for anything." Following the ceremony, the pooches enjoyed a special canine wedding cake. And they "dug in," literally, to celebrate their special day. "They're so adorable, said Caridad Estrada, holding her 1-year-old daughter, Jennifer Gonzalez, a patient at the hospital, shortly after the ceremony. "But I think he's [Blake] is too big for her. She may want to rethink the honeymoon." But there will be no doggymoon from the couple. They're back at work, providing comfort to patients at TGH.