When dog lover Emma Ward shared a tribute to Buster, a Spaniel who saved thousands of lives while at war, it inspired her to create a memorial for all service dogs.
Emma, who runs a Pet Cemetery in Wales was so moved by words of well wishers who shared what Buster meant to them that she began campaigning to honour the brave service dogs who have saved the lives of millions.
Her mission is to create the National Military Working Dogs Memorial which will celebrate the amazing animals who have supported our troops and will be the first of its kind in the UK.
But to make it happen, £150,000 needs to be raised and Emma, founder of the National Military Working Dogs Memorial UK charity, is hoping animal lovers will donate to make her dream a reality.
At present there is no memorial or monument in the UK where people can remember the work dogs do saving lives at home and in war zones.
Having worked in a pet cemetery herself, Emma, 41, recognises how important it is for people to have a place to go to remember animals they loved and lost.
She explained: “The idea for the Military Memorial came about in 2015 after Buster, the Springer Spaniel who saved thousands of lives in war zones around the world, passed away.
“His handler Will Barrow paid tribute to him in a news article and when I shared the story on our Pet Cemetery Facebook page we had a huge response.
“People suggested creating a tribute to Buster at the cemetery, so a statue or something special to remember this remarkable dog, but I wanted to do more.
“I contacted Will and our conversation sparked the idea of building something service men and women and members of the public could visit, so they could pay their respects to dogs like Buster who keep us safe.”
Memorials for soldiers can be found all over the country but the War Dog memorial will be the first in the UK and Emma’s campaign has won support from animal lovers Paul O’Grady and Claire Balding.
Emma wanted all the forces to be represented in the monument and painstakingly researched other animals who had done remarkable things in conflict in the Army, Navy, RAF and Civilian Police Force.
She has the support of her local MP Ann Clywd and launched her appeal at the Houses of Parliament.
The bronze statue will feature four dogs, including Buster, and will stand in North Wales close to the pet cemetery in land donated to the charity by John Ward, Emma’s father.
She needs to raise £200,000 in total to make the national monument a reality.
He said: “It will be a great source of pride to see this monument built. Not only will it represent the four dogs portrayed, but the thousands of other dogs that have protected this country.
“In 36 years of service I’ve handled over 20 dogs and having a place to come and remember them all with great fondness will be great.
“I’m sure everyone that has had the honour to handle a Military Working Dog will feel the same.”
The memorial will feature Bronze statues of four brave hounds who have served in the four different services.
They will face North, East, South and West and supporters will also have the chance to sponsor bricks surrounding the statues in memory of their own dogs.
These are the amazing dogs who will form the four pillars of the National Military Working Dogs Memorial
Buster was a police, military and RAF working dog and has saved over a thousand lives, both civilian and military.
He completed five tours of duty to Bosnia, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Iraq and was the the last Military Working Dog to leave Iraq.
Buster partnered with Flight Sergeant Michael “Will” Barrow he helped raise thousands for charities and died at home with Will by his side in 2015.
Representing the Army is Theo, a Springer Spaniel who served in Afghanistan sniffing bombs, weapons and IEDs.
He was only 22 months old when the soldier he was partnered with Lance Corporal Liam Tasker was shot by a sniper.
A brown and white Pointer, she was a ship mascot on HMS Grasshopper when she was captured along with the men on the ship and saved their lives by sniffing out water in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.
She was smuggled all the way home to Liverpool and her bark was the first dog bark ever to be broadcast as part of the Victory Day celebrations in 1946. Judy died of cancer in 1950.
By tracking scents, Lucky and the team of dogs made sure terrorists were apprehended, saving thousands of lives and was the only dog to survive her tour of duty.
Lucky was awarded a posthumous PDSA Dickin Medal – the animals’ Victoria Cross – in 2007.
Emma is hoping to boost the National Military Working Dogs Memorial appeal
So far, well-wishers and military dog handlers have conducted various fundraising activities including dog walks, marathons and cake sales.
But lockdown has slowed fundraising and Emma hopes sharing the appeal around Remembrance Day will help boost donations.
The total stands at £50,000 but £200,000 is needed to complete the memorial.
Emma added: “Memorials are so important in helping with the grief process, especially for Military Working dogs.
“This memorial is long overdue and members of the armed forces have campaigned for years to have one but have never been able to get it off the ground.
“If enough people donate, this can be a reality. We’re a nation of animal lovers, we worship our pets, and just a few pounds could mean these special dogs are never forgotten.”
To find out more, visit www.nmwdm.org.uk or to donate go to https://www.justgiving.com/militaryworkingdogmemorial