Out of the pool and down the aisle

Courtesy Jessica Hardy

Jessica Hardy is eager to get back home to enjoy the dog days of summer with her puppy, Duke.

As I wrap up the final days of competing at the world championships in Barcelona, I must admit that I'm ready for the next big thing. That "thing" is my wedding. I've been so focused on training -- from building up to tapering -- that it'll be nice to give my body a break by shifting gears. Dom, my fiancé, is in the same boat. He's here in Spain, too, representing Switzerland. I've been concentrating on the 100-meter (in which I won bronze) and 50-meter breaststrokes, while Dom focuses on the 200-meter free. It's always fun to be on deck together, but I'm looking forward to walking down the aisle even more.

It's funny to think that we met at the world championships back in 2005, almost eight years ago to the day. When he proposed last March at sunset in Malibu, I was totally surprised and excited, though I knew it would be a hectic year.

As our seasons come to a close and we nail down the final details for our wedding this October, I can't help but feel lucky to have met someone who understands me so well. We know how to push each other in training, but each of us also knows when the other needs a few words of encouragement or someone to talk to about the pressures that come with this high level of competition.

Following the championships, we are going to spend a few days enjoying tapas and sangria around Barcelona before we fly over to Switzerland. We'll have a small, casual wedding reception there with Dom's friends and family -- the ones who won't be able to make it to our American wedding. I'm excited to have this perfect excuse to celebrate and unwind together after the competition.

The real work begins once we get back home. Because we sent out our wedding invitations right before we left for Spain, we'll have a good amount of RSVPs to sort through. We're having a laid-back California wedding, with the ceremony overlooking the water and the reception at a yacht club in Long Beach. I probably should be more stressed about the process than I am, but -- so far -- planning has been a breeze. Dom has been equally involved in the details, which has helped to keep my inner bridezilla at bay.

The other reason we are eager to get home is to see our 6-month-old puppy, Duke, who is staying with my parents. We are hoping to include him in some of the wedding photos, since he's a big part of our family. He's going to need a bit more obedience training before that's a realistic goal. Since we've been gone, my parents have been sending videos of him, and each one makes my heart melt. Anyone who has a dog knows what it's like to be greeted by a furry friend after a long absence. We have a lot to look forward to upon returning to the U.S., but nothing tops Duke's wagging tail. Buddy, we'll be home soon…

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