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The cemetery full of dead pets where owners can have their ashes buried alongside

It has one headstone worth £13,000 and once held a burial for a golden retriever named David who had been flown over especially from Hong Kong.

And it might not be the first place you think of when planning your next day out, but over the past three decades a pet cemetery in Wales has welcomed thousands of visitors, as well as mourners, through its gates.

Just a stone’s throw from the A55 in north Wales, Pet Funeral Services Ltd has commemorated the lives of everything from goldfish to Mazza the cow within its manicured grounds, making sure its customers can give man’s best friends the best send off possible.

Now the family behind the world-famous business have helped found a separate charity with a poignant challenge – to raise £150,000 to create the UK’s first memorial for military working dogs.

Set up by the Ward family and run by parents John and Theresa and children Emma, Jason and Dirk, the pet cemetery based in Brynford, near Holywell, has grown to house more than 600 plots within its grounds over the years, alongside a pet-friendly tea room.



The grounds of the cemetery have become the final resting place of animals big and small



Family plots are also available to keep pets from the same household together

It has also evolved too – with humans now also able to have their ashes buried alongside their pet if they wish.

“We’ve had a lot of moving stories over the years, even reading the headstones touches me,” said Emma Ward, marketing director.

“We’ve got an area which is mainly for interring human ashes alongside their pet. You can’t do it the other way around – you can sneak a pet’s ashes in a casket but you can’t put a headstone remembering them or hold a service for them like we do.

“A lot of people say it’s better than a human cemetery. We do have one man buried here who doesn’t have any pets at all. His son spoke to me a few years back and asked if we could bury his dad’s ashes here.

“You don’t have a tearooms in a human cemetery – with this man his family come to see him and have a cup of tea and a scone and they like to visit. It’s a bit more accommodating.”



The tearooms at the cemetery have become a tourist attraction in their own right



It’s a cemetery like no other

For those who wish to have their pets buried rather than cremated, family plots are also on offer on the site. It means animals big and small can be buried beside one another, to help comfort a grieving owner.

Emma added: “People don’t tend to think about the passing of their pets, it does hit them a lot harder than they think. Everyone knows when their parents go there will be grieving but this sort of catches you unaware, it can be hard to process those feelings.

“Everybody thinks their dog is the best and that’s the way it should be, you get that bond.

“We don’t have one customer group, it’s not one particular age or profession. Lots of people use our services – people who are poor, people who are rich, there’s no one category.”



The funeral held for 13-year-old David in 2015




Over the years, a few of the cemetery’s better known stories have made the headlines in their own right.

In 2015, David the golden retriever was flown 6,000 miles to Brynford from Hong Kong to be laid to rest after his owners struggled to find somewhere in his home country.

The 13-year-old dog was buried in a special kimono after a service in the chapel of rest – where prayers were held alongside music including Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You.

Taking pride of place in the cemetery is also a bronze memorial to a dog named Keata which is worth thousands in its own right.

The akita had been found in a bad state on the streets of Chorley where she was rescued before being taken to north Wales to start a new life.

Sadly, Keata’s condition quickly deteriorated, and after a tumour was detected, her new family were advised to put her to sleep.

Describing her statue, Emma said: “She had such a troubled life they just wanted to make sure she had something fitting for her.”



The plans for a national Military Working Dogs Memorial which Emma and her dad John have helped found

Alongside running the pet cemetery, Emma and dad John are also dedicating their time to create another poignant legacy in north Wales – this time for military dogs in need of recognition.

In 2017 they founded the National Military Working Dogs Memorial charity to honour and commemorate the military dogs who have served their country.

The memorial, to be built on land donated to the charity near the cemetery, will include bronze statues of four famous military dogs – each representing the branches of the UK’s Armed Forces.

Plaques will also commemorate other dogs on the site, the first of its kind to do so.

In total, the charity needs £150,000 to make its vision a reality, and had so far raised around £57,000 through donations. You can donate to the charity here.

According to Emma the idea started after they heard the story of Buster, an English Springer Spaniel credited with saving a thousand lives, both military and civilian, through his service with the RAF.

During his career he completed five tours of duty to Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan, and was the last military working dog to leave Iraq.

Along with Buster, bronze statues will commemorate Judy, an RAF mascot and the only dog to be officially registered as a Prisoner of War, Theo, an arms and explosives search dog for the army, and Lucky, an anti-terrorist tracker in the Royal Air Force Police dog unit.

Emma, who is a trustee of the charity, said: “With the pet cemetery I used to do a lot of the marketing on Facebook. I shared Buster’s story on the business Facebook and it got a lot of interest. A lot of people were asking me to do something for Buster and that’s where the idea came from.

“I spoke to his handler and he was already making a small memorial to Buster and they were talking about other mascots and military dogs.

She added: “It’s very important to military personnel, a lot have been fundraising for us and say how important it is to remember these dogs.”

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