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Ward Melville senior finds perfect prom ‘date’ -- her dog

Ward Melville High School senior Kathleen O'Brien walks

Ward Melville High School senior Kathleen O'Brien walks the red carpet with her dog, Noni, at the school's prom on Thursday, June 22, 2017. Credit: Jennifer A. Uihlein

Ward Melville High School is known for its memorable prom entrances.

The 2017 prom was held at the East Setauket school last Thursday, and -- as is tradition for the community -- the festivities began with grand entrances from students in fire engines, sports cars and horse-drawn carriages.

The school was transformed into scenery from “Beauty and the Beast” and had a red carpet leading up to the entrance. Bleachers stationed on both sides of the red carpet and across the street were filled with onlookers who cheered as students twirled their dates or kissed dramatically.

But for all the pomp and circumstance, Ward Melville senior Kathleen O’Brien, 18, stole the show with her “date.”

As she stepped barefoot out of her father Bill’s Porsche, her 3-year-old yellow Labrador retriever, Noni, hopped out and trotted up the red carpet alongside her.

The dog looked excitedly at the crowd, and O’Brien crouched down to pet her and kiss her nose.

They continued up the red carpet until O’Brien handed Noni off before crossing the threshold of the school’s lobby.

“I decided since I didn’t have a date, I would just take my dog,” she said. “I wanted to do something different and I definitely didn’t want to walk down alone.”

The assembled crowd went crazy for the pair.

“I was not expecting that,” O’Brien said of the cheers, which were among the loudest of the night for any student. “When they saw the dog, everybody started screaming, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, they love it!’ ”

The support was a relief to O’Brien, who admitted she was initially upset about being the only one in her friend group without a date. But once she got inside, that proved to be a nonissue.

“I think if you have someone, then great,” she said. “But I don’t feel the need to stress about it because it’s so much more than that when you get here.”

O’Brien said she was excited to spend the night with friends and enjoy one of the last times the whole class would be together.

“I think it’s really nice how it’s at the school and not at a venue,” O’Brien said of the prom. “We’ve walked through these hallways the past three years, so it’s more meaningful that way.”

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