Animal lovers in Chipping Norton remember the army of dogs, horses and other animals that served alongside soldiers in conflict on Remembrance Sunday.
Bonnie Cowdrey, a dog walker for 17 years, came up with the idea of ââa dog accompanying the Sunday parade at St Mary’s Church, run by the Royal British Legion, 10 years ago.
This year, the black Lab Molly was chosen to do the honors and will wear a coat made by Kerry Forkner of Fibreworks paid for by City Council and the Royal British Legion and emblazoned with both.
Each year, Kerry embroidered the coat with the name of the dog that attends the parade.
Bonnie said: âThe idea came about pretty much by accident after a friend was invited to be a marshall by the RBL at the back of the parade. He said he would love to bring his dog and that people, especially children, seemed to love him, so it became a tradition.
âA lot of animals were used in wars – prepare a box of tissues if you’ve ever watched War Horse – literally thousands of horses died in WWI, dogs were used in Afghanistan to detect IEDs. A soldier told me that he often parachuted from an airplane with a dog strapped to him. I read that even slow worms were used during the war.
In 2006, the Animal Aid charity produced a purple poppy to commemorate animals that served during conflicts, as the charity considered them to be the forgotten victims of war.
Historically, the greatest number of animal casualties in conflicts have been horses and ponies.
Mrs. Cowdrey added, âFor the parade, I always choose a calm dog on a leash. They can’t be nervous about the military band, the kids and the people lining the street, it’s a noisy event.
âThey walk to the church, then play in the park during the service before heading back to town. And they have a photo op with the mayor.
“Owners are always happy to be contacted and Pets Corner has a photo of the dog of the year in their window.”
Molly was rescued by current owners Clive and Amy Platt after the death of her former owner. âSo it’s really cool for them to follow their good deed, they’re really excited,â said Bonnie.
“Kids always ask me a lot of questions about dogs, it really engages them in the event, and that must be a good thing if we are to keep these memorial services going into the future.”