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A Valentine's Day wedding gone to the dogs — at Westminster
A local couple will marry at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show on Valentine's Day, just after Major, their Tibetan Mastiff, competes.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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When Brad Slayton told his fiancée she could plan their wedding, he wasn't expecting this.
Madison Square Garden. At the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. On Valentine's Day.
OK, maybe it didn't come as a complete surprise to 58-year-old Slayton. He and Debbie Parsons, who works for the Kent-based fuel company PetroCard, have been dating for six years and had discussed getting married in December at a dog show in Orlando, where Major, their Tibetan mastiff, was competing.
But that plan fell through when they weren't able to get a marriage license in time.
"Finally, I just said, 'You know, Debbie, you just put it together. Whatever works,' " recalled Slayton, an automotive instructor at Renton Technical College. "So she called me up and said, 'Guess what? I've got this thing all planned for Westminster!' I go, 'Whoa, whoa, whoa.' "
In some ways, the 54-year-old Parsons, of Graham, Pierce County, sounds like any other bride-to-be when she describes the day: She'll be in a pink Vera Wang dress. He'll wear a gray tux and a pink rose boutonniere. They'll be surrounded by a few close friends and family.
But that's where the similarities end.
Earlier Tuesday, Major, a 120-pound, black-and-tan fluff ball, will have his moment, competing in the ring against five other Tibetan mastiffs. Then the couple will have theirs.
"We wanted to do something different," Parsons said. "He's a major part of our life."
With Major at their side, the two will get married in Westminster's benching area, where dogs stay when they're not competing. It's a chaotic mix of canines, handlers, owners and even some of the 20,000 spectators expected for Tuesday's show, who are invited to walk through and learn more about the breeds and varieties in the competition.
Westminster will film the nuptials, though the club hasn't decided if it will be broadcast.
"In the benching area, there are going to be hundreds and hundreds of dogs and people," said Major's handler, Tony Carter. "This is my 17th year at Westminster, and it's wall-to-wall, elbow-to-elbow."
Regardless, Slayton, a man in love, now says he can't wait.
Carter, of Kent, will be his best man. A Monroe-area owner of another dog competing in the show will be Parsons' maid of honor.
Parsons started showing Tibetan mastiffs with her first husband, who died in 2005. The following year, she and Slayton met through a dating website they'd both been goaded into joining, and they've been dating ever since.
The couple, who own six Tibetan mastiffs, last attended the show in 2008, when Major's dad was part of the first group of Tibetan mastiffs ever invited to the show. It's a breed known to be haughty and aloof, but Major — a Silver Grand Champion whose full show name is DreamCatcher's Major Victory of Loki — isn't like that, preferring to serve as a head rest for Rylee, Carter's 4-year-old daughter, while she watches TV.
If he's judged the best of his breed, he will move on to the working-group competition. The dogs that take first in the group competition will compete for best in show.
Regardless of what happens, Slayton has just one stipulation: that the couple have a big party when they return home. He finds a perk in the date his fiancée chose for the wedding: the easy-to-remember anniversary.
"One thing's for sure: He shouldn't forget it," Parsons said.
Lark Turner: 206-464-2761 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @larkreports.