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Man gets honest about relationship's 'pecking order' in hilarious engagement pic

by Laura Ratliff / / Source: TODAY

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Pets are an essential part of many families, so it’s no surprise we’re seeing more and more of them playing big roles in milestone photo shoots.

Joe and Nikki Tingley from Merrimack, New Hampshire, took that idea to the next level when they included Nikki’s adorable German shepherd mix, Buddy, in their spring 2016 engagement photo shoot.

Man shares engagement photo with dog showing "pecking order"
Joe Tingley shared this engagement photo on Reddit, where it quickly racked up more than 30,000 upvotes.Courtesy of Nikki and Joe Tingley

In the photo, Nikki, dressed in a white dress and classic pearls, holds up Buddy’s paw as he proudly wears a sign declaring “I loved her first.”

When Joe, 33, proposed to Nikki, 31, he knew that Buddy was an important part of her life.

Nikki, who is currently finishing up her master's degree to become a physician assistant, adopted Buddy when he was about a year old.

Nikki Tingley and Buddy
Nikki Tingley and BuddyCourtesy of Nikki and Joe Tingley

“My wife had Buddy for five years before we met,” Joe, who works in health care information technology, told TODAY. “They were inseparable, and they both were kind enough to adopt me into their pack.”

The couple wed in November 2016, and Buddy even played a prominent part in the couple’s wedding day, posing for photos with the proud bride and groom.

Nikki and Joe Tingley and Buddy wedding
Buddy played a big role at the couple's wedding, too.Courtesy of Nikki and Joe Tingley

Joe shared the now viral photo on Reddit this week with the caption, "A little reminder of the pecking order during our engagement photo shoot." The post earned more than 30,000 upvotes on the social site.

"This is too cute!" wrote one commenter. "You are going to live happily ever after. All of you," wrote another.

Man shares engagement photo with dog showing "pecking order"
"They both were kind enough to adopt me into their pack," said Joe Tingley of his wife's special bond with Buddy.Courtesy of Nikki and Joe Tingley

But it was a bittersweet moment for the couple.

After undergoing surgery last week, the 12-year-old dog suffered a stroke on Wednesday morning and passed away.

“Between our constant tears," said Joe, "I was able to show my wife that many thousands of people had seen him that day and we found some sense of comfort knowing that Buddy had brought some happiness to others out there."

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