by Brenda Lange
What do you do when you’re planning your wedding and would love your dogs – who are really more like your children – to be a part of the big day? How will you get them there? How will you get them home? Who will handle them for you at the venue while the photographer snaps away?
Enter Ashley Holt, 30, and Ashley Summa, 29, and their new business, Here Comes the Pup, a service for “obsessive dog lovers” – like them – who want their special pets to be part of their special day.
“For us, our pets (each woman has two dogs and were both raised with pets) are family, and we understand and want to alleviate pet owners’ worries about their canine children and help them be part of the big day,” they said last week.
The duo provides transportation, water and potty breaks, helps the photographer when it comes time to pose the pets and offers constant love and care.
The Conshohocken residents didn’t know each other when they studied at St. Joseph’s University, but they met and became friends after graduation through their then-boyfriends who happened to be good friends.
The co-founders of Here Comes the Pup do everything together in growing their fledgling business, which began last summer. Holt, who has a black lab/Bernese mountain mix named Griffey and a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Buddy, owns a pet care company named Paws Up, also based in Conshohocken.
It was her experience with Paws Up (and various veterinarians and a wide variety of dogs) and her May wedding that inspired the new business.
“I wanted to have my dogs in my wedding, but Ashley [Summa] was a bridesmaid, and I had no one who could handle them without missing part of the wedding,” she said.
And Summa, who is getting married in October of 2020, knows she will be including her pets, Penny, a black lab, and Louis, a shih tzu, in the event, although she is still figuring out the logistics because the wedding will be held in Cape May, New Jersey.
Conshohocken is such an animal-friendly town, and dogs are welcome almost everywhere. Some restaurants even have dog menus, they said. Including one’s pooch in one’s nuptials just seemed like a natural extension. And word is spreading quickly. The women have participated in two bridal shows so far, and they said the feedback they’re getting has been all positive.
“The brides love it,” said Summa, who added that they are building the business slowly.
Currently, Here Comes the Pup offers hourly packages and custom fees, with additional pricing for more than one dog. Every quote is customized on top of the hourly base rate. They will travel as far north as Scranton and east to the Jersey shore.
“With every package, we meet and greet the bride and groom and the dog or dogs,” Holt said. “We pick up and transport to the wedding and home again, usually for the photos beforehand.”
During the event and once home, they will walk the pet(s) and make sure they have water breaks. Although weddings are the most popular event they cater, the two are also available for engagement shoots, birthday parties, bar mitzvahs and more.
Their first wedding dog was Remmy, a labradoodle, who wore a classy bandana proclaiming, “I do too!” He was well-behaved, but not all pups are calm during something so stressful as a wedding ceremony and all the attendant managed chaos.
Recently, a client wanted Holt to walk her dog down the aisle, but she declined because she knew the dog, a client of Paws Up, might be spooked by all the people.
“Every dog is different, and it’s important to know the dog’s personality and level of training,” Holt stressed. “There are crowds at a wedding, and it’s exhausting for them. If you know your dog likes to jump and is maybe not great with commands, just remember that you’ll be wearing a wedding dress!”
Here Comes the Pup’s website is still under construction, but the Ashleys can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit them on Facebook.
Brenda Lange, an area freelance writer, was the editor of the Chestnut Hill College magazine.