Lilly Smartelli doesn’t want you to think she’s a crazy dog lady. Yes, she wants to marry her dog Bernie—but it’s not what you think.
The Amazon description of her book “The $5 (Dog) Wedding” explains it best: “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.”
In real life, Smartelli is in fact terminally ill with a form of pulmonary fibrosis, a respiratory disease; has a rescue dog named Bernie; gave a kidney to a childhood friend 12 years ago; and, just like you, is disappointed by real men, according to a New York Times interview.
After only ever having “one-and-a-half relationships,” the 55-year-old now hopes to make her book a reality by actually marrying Bernie on Valentine’s Day.
“I know I will never be married, but I would still love to experience the kind of wedding, even if it’s a fake wedding, that I’ve been dreaming about since I was a little girl,” Smartelli told the Times.
And who better to step in for an actual man than man’s best friend? “I can’t think of anyone in the entire world who loves me more than Bernie does, anyhow,” Smartelli explains.
While her dying wish is to have a big Italian wedding, Smartelli can’t afford her grand dog wedding. “I love Bernie to death and I know he’s going to make quite a handsome groom,” Ms. Smartelli said. “But there is one problem where our wedding is concerned.”
Their ideal date is only two weeks away, but their wedding website still doesn’t list a venue. “WE NEED A VENUE! Ideas in our ebook, “THE $5 (DOG) WEDDING,” it reads. “ELLEN SHOW? OPRAH? GOOD MORNING AMERICA? TODAY? NASCAR?”
Smartelli and Bernie are clearly looking to do it big—but with charity in mind. According to the Times, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book, which retails for $11.99, have already been donated to Donate Life America, a nonprofit working to increase the number of donated organs, eyes, and tissue. And she isn’t stopping there. “Any ‘wedding gifts’ I receive would go straight to both of those causes,” she adds.
Smartelli knows that a call from Ellen DeGeneres or Oprah Winfrey saying they will host her wedding might not come before the 14th, but she is still excited to spend the day with Bernie and her other dog Spinner, Bernie’s best man.
See more: 12 Ways to Dress Up Your Dog for Your Wedding
“It’s kind of ironic, but Bernie and Spinner, who are just a couple of rescue dogs, have actually rescued me from a life of loneliness,” said Smartelli. “I really love those two guys. It wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without them.”
Image: Lilly Smartelli with her would-be canine groom