When two people get married, they want to create a celebration that reflects who they are. The location, the music, the cake itself can be a representation of their love for each other, even if that means straying a bit from the traditional…
When a Canadian animal lover thought she found “the one,” she couldn’t wait to get hitched. Life is short, after all, which is lesson she learned after a serous setback in her youth. But when it came time to tie the knot for good, photographers caught her running away from the altar as fast as possible — and for a good reason.
Everyone who knows Carla Reilly will tell you that she is an animal lover; when she was little, she loved pets and petting zoos, and as an adult, she dedicated her life to rescuing any creature in need of a little TLC.
As her fondness for animals grew, and she started to learn exactly where her meat, eggs, and cheese came from, Carla became a vegan and never looked back. To her, animals are friends, not food.
Not long after becoming vegan in the hopes of decreasing animal cruelty, Carla threw herself into the world of responsible food and clothing. She then started working as a humane educator and a public speaker to help others see the light, too.
It was actually at an activism event that she met the love of her life, Harold Moore. He was a vegan just like her, protesting against the use of fur in fashion. It seemed like a match made in heaven, so the two quickly started dating.
Together, they opened a farm and sanctuary called Happy Tails, in Ontario, Canada. Their goal was to provide a home for rescued farm animals and to let them live a long, joyful life.
Once Happy Trails was up and running, life seemed perfect: seeing the animals happy made Carla and Harold happy, and they finally felt like they were fulfilling their life’s purpose. Then, something awful happened.
Carla was on her way back home from buying some extra animal feed when she crashed her car and became severely injured. After a stint in the hospital, she was finally allowed to go home, but she wasn’t fine at all…
Not only would she likely have lifelong damage to her back, but she also needed bed rest for weeks and couldn’t work on the farm. “When you are a caregiver to so many lives, it’s not like you can just pick up and leave,” she said. “They rely on you for everything.”
When she finally started to feel better, she immediately wanted to return to work. She couldn’t do much, but she just wanted to be with her beloved creatures. “I spent hours with the animals as it’s eased my pain and helped me along my path to recovery,” she said.
Then, the family made the local news when they rescued a Siamese cat who had been found wandering the street with a broken pelvis. At first, kitty was terrified of everyone, but then she suddenly started bonding with Carla’s newborn baby.
“One of the greatest feelings is when you watch an animal get past the pain and move forward,” Carla said. “It’s a very special moment. It’s a moment where they take a chance on the humans in their life.”
Considering all the happiness and hurt the family had been through that year, they realized that life was short, and there was only one thing left to do: Carla and Harold would get married because they never wanted to be without each other.
Of course, the nuptials were held at Happy Tails. “The sanctuary gave me peace and healing, and it’s where we helped heal others,” Carla said. “We wanted to be surrounded by everything we loved: Nature, family, and of course the animals.”
When the wedding day finally arrived, everybody was nervous. Harold wanted to remember his vows, his son feared he would trip, and Carla herself worried whether everybody would have a good time.
But all went well, without any hiccups, right until it was time to exchange the “I do’s”. As Carla and Harold promised to love each other forever, they put on their wedding rings and kissed, but before they could celebrate, Carla did something unexpected.
As if a shot had been fired, the bride ran away in a hurry, leaving her husband standing at the altar. Dragging her white wedding dress through the mud, she sprinted through one enclosure after the other…
Of course, each and every one of her guests was shocked at this sudden, inexplicable behavior. Had Carla changed her mind? Was there an emergency happening? Was she just overwhelmed with emotion?
No! As it turned out, all Carla wanted to do was make sure her animals were fed and happy. “I didn’t think twice about going down to check on everybody, and even feeding them in my wedding dress.”
Luckily Harold was aware of Carla’s priorities and joined her in the feeding. “We had our honeymoon here!” Carla said. “We couldn’t think of a better place to share our love for each other. It seems that it was always meant to be.”
Afterward, the two shared their first dance as husband and wife together… and with a bunch of their pets. Their love for animals is what brought them together, and their love for each other kept their flame alive!
Of course, a common interest, or rather a common passion, can unite people all over the world. For example, two people in Russia made a similar decision to Carla and Harold’s, but it didn’t come quite so easy for them.
For six years, Daria Pushkavera dedicated herself to the film and TV industry of Moscow, working one production after another. The daily grind was really wearing her down.
“I was proud of my work,” she said, “but my entire movie production life resulted in being exhausted, working 15-hour shifts without a day off for two weeks at a time.” Knowing she couldn’t keep this up forever, Daria took her eye for visual media in a new direction.
Taking every penny she had saved, she invested in cameras and master classes in order to become a photographer. She studied, worked hard, and eventually broke through in the business, but there were complications…
“I became a photographer because I wanted to reduce the intensity of my life, but ended I up in the same place. Once again I gave myself no breaks, I shut myself away at work and the only joy I had came from producing impressive photos.”
Even when Daria became one of Moscow’s Top 5 wedding photographers, it still wasn’t enough to satisfy her own cravings for success. “I realized that I was a workaholic,” she said, “always preferring doing or creating something to any form of relaxation.”
Reconsidering again what she should do regarding her all-encompassing career, Daria went back to her roots and thought of what she had wanted when she was a child: to run a dog shelter. Unfortunately, she had never had a dog in her life.
“Growing up without a father, my mom worked really hard, so I didn’t have a dog at the time,” she said. “It would’ve been too much. My mom understood that getting me a dog eventually would have become an additional weight on herself.”
However, she did the best she could to help any dogs in need once she grew up and started earning paychecks. “I donated and volunteered, finding dogs therapy, accommodation, and funds. I had little free time then, so this was the best I could do.”
One day, she learned about a one-eyed shelter pup who needed 10K rubles ($150) to visit the ophthalmologist. Daria donated the money for the dog’s treatment, but there was no one to take the pup to the appointment, so she volunteered herself.
“At that point, everything became clear and simple,” she said. “The owner of the shelter came and placed the flea-ridden furball onto my lap while I was sitting in the car on the way to the doctor. I looked at her asking, ‘Is this a puppy?’”
Soon after that, Daria and her husband began adopting dogs left and right. By the time they were ready to take in their 7th dog, they were definitely up for a challenge and decided to adopt a troubled pooch that would have otherwise been put down.
It growled at them, fought with their other dogs, and tore up their apartment every day. As it turned out, it had a craniocerebral trauma, meaning it would never get better. Daria had a decision to make: get rid of the dog or uproot their lives to accommodate it?
Without a single doubt, they took out two loans and bought a country house 160 km (100 miles) away from Moscow and moved out there with their dogs. They rapidly built six enclosures for the rescue dogs and dove right into their new lives.
“I know there are few who’d take in troubled dogs, and even fewer who’d move to the countryside to take care of them, but we’ve said goodbye to a comfortable life and are fine with it. I finally feel like I’m not wasting my life, but spending my time meaningfully.”
Living on the agricultural land in the middle of nowhere is certainly no piece of cake. Four years after settling in, Daria and her husband finally have hot water and regular plumbing. For them, the dogs always come first, so there is little money for “human comfort.”
It’s been a while since they stopped looking for new dogs, as people are actually sending tips or even bringing them to the farm. By March of 2019, the couple has cared for over 100 dogs, and it didn’t stop there…
“Once, I came across a girl volunteer and we became good friends,” Daria said. “We were just chatting when she said, ‘Well, my foxes…’ I interrupted her, ‘Wait a minute,’ I said. ‘Foxes?’” To prevent them from becoming fur coats, Daria began rescuing foxes as well.
In fact, once she started looking into foxes, it wasn’t long before she found a family of raccoons that were injured and needed a home as well. No creature would be turned away, but both the financial and physical burdens were getting heavier and heavier.
In order to compensate for the growing number of furry friends, Daria hired two employees to help with day-to-day tasks. This included getting up at the crack of dawn, feeding the animals, cleaning the grounds, look after their health, and much more.
With the costs adding up, Daria had no choice but to go back to work. She freelanced as a photo retoucher, but without going back to her workaholic ways. Still, there was no budget for their own luxuries. “Good thing we don’t need a lot of that,” she said.
The rest of the money comes from friends who help raise funds and supplies. Even strangers lend a hand as well. “I am eternally grateful to them,” Daria said. “We don’t have any sponsors, and we don’t expect any of them. My principle of living with animals is that they’re your responsibility.”
At some point, Daria’s farm may have to stop taking in animals in need or start giving them new homes, but it’s not something she wants to consider at the moment. “We are not a shelter. We devote our lives to our dogs and don’t want to give them away.”
It seems that this artist with a heart of gold has finally found her calling. “I’m helping these animals and am sincerely enjoying it,” she said. “I know I can take responsibility in taking care of them, giving them space, food, and love.”