Welcome to Episode 47: How Marrying Your Dog Can Make a Difference In the World with Lilly Smartelli of The $5 Wedding. While Lilly has accomplished some things that I usually cover on this show – such as publishing a book and getting publicity – the reason why I wanted to talk to her, especially this week, is because she’s one of the kindest and most selfless people I’ve ever met. I hope that her story inspires you to share love and joy with everyone you interact with. As women in the pet industry, we’re an extra compassionate group and we can use our influence to make other people’s and pets’ lives better.

Before we get into the interview, I want to remind you that this February I’m asking you to share how much you love this podcast by leaving a review in Apple Podcasts. At the end of the month, I’ll pick one reviewer to win a $50 gift card to the Wear Wag Repeat Shop! To leave a review, just open the Podcast app on your phone (it’s a purple icon), search for Wear Wag Repeat, click on the photo of me and Lucy, then scroll down towards the bottom where you’ll find reviews. I promise it only takes a few minutes. I’ll love you for it and you could win a fabulous prize!

How Marrying Your Dog Can Make A Difference in the World

When a doctor told Lilly Smartelli lung disease would cut her life short, she realized she may never have the big Italian wedding she always dreamed about. While she traveled, worked as a nurse, and even donated a kidney to a friend, she never found the man of her dreams.

Then, she realized the man of her dreams wasn’t actually a man at all! Her faithful companion, Bernie the rescue dog, was the only guy she knew she could always count on and who loved her unconditionally. She started dreaming up fanciful wedding scenarios where Bernie stood in for the groom.

Her imaginative wedding visions inspired The $5 Dog Wedding, a heartwarming book about life, love, and true friendship. Her story and wedding plans with Bernie were recently featured in the New York Times and she has a special Valentine’s Day celebration planned for this year.

(00:00) Intro
(00:29) Participate in the February contest – leave a review and one lucky winner will get a $50 gift card
(01:50) Introducing Lilly Smartelli
(04:57) How the idea for Lilly marrying her dog came about
(08:03) What Lilly felt getting her diagnosis as a nurse who delivers that news before
(11:01) How the New York Times article came to be
(14:27) The most delightful wedding announcement you’ve ever heard
(16:23) What happened after Lilly’s story came out in the New York Times
(18:45) What types of weddings Lilly writes about in her book
(25:07) How receptive the dog mom community is
(27:39) The power of puppies on Valentine’s Day
(29:37) Where to find Lilly Smartelli

Read the sample wedding announcement that inspired the full article in the New York Times. It’s one of the most joyful things I’ve ever read:

Lilly and Bernie were married on Valentine’s Day at St. Bernard Church in New York. The Rev. Jack Russell, one of man’s best friends, officiated.

Mrs. Bernie, 55, who was radiant in a bone-white gown, and Mr. Bernie, 54 (dog years), flealess in a rhinestoned collar, exchanged puptials before a litter of family and friends.

The bride, who graduated from Wayne State University in Detroit, was a travel nurse. The groom, who graduated from Obedience School, works from home, keeping the yard free of squirrels.

The couple met in Palm Springs, Calif., in October 2011, during a county fair adoption for shelter dogs. “He couldn’t keep his paws off me,” the bride joked.

PodcastEpisode47HowMarryingYourDogCanMakeADifferenceintheWorldwithLillySmartelliof The5DollarDogWedding

TORI: How has being featured in the New York Times impacted you?

Lilly: Some people called to do interviews with me. I’m really surprised they found me, to be honest. Others would donate on my website, which supports my causes Donate Life America and local dog shelters. I really just can’t believe how generous everyone is. Everyone is contacting me and wants to be a part of it whether its to donate to my medical bills or donate to the wedding.

TORI: Your efforts are raising awareness and funds for Donate Life America and local animal shelters. What do those organizations mean to you?

Lilly: I have an agreement with both Donate Life America and the unfunded dog shelters where I give them a certain percentage of my time. There are certain things in our power. And there are things that are totally in control like being an organ donor. Also, the same thing can be said about getting your dog spayed and neutered or adopting a dog from the shelter. It’s all in our control. And it just makes you feel so good – being able to participate in something like that.

TORI: What’s your favorite fictional dog wedding from the book?

Lilly: There’s an afternoon talk show wedding with an Italian cook and the audience is filled with people who have donated organs or have who own run non-funded dog shelters. The audience members don’t know why they were invited to this talk show. So we put on a little Italian dog wedding and show them how to Tarantella and do the chicken dance. Just a lot of laughter. Then, the audience finds out that they were invited there to receive all the wedding presents that the couple would normally get. The audience of amazing people who gave of themselves would get something unexpected in return.

PodcastEpisode47HowMarryingYourDogCanMakeADifferenceintheWorldwithLillySmartelliof The5DollarDogWedding




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