Dorset

'Vicar of Dibley-style' pets' Christmas service in Bournemouth

A scene from the Vicar of Dibley where Geraldine, played by Dawn French, holds a ceremony for pets
Image caption The Reverend Chris Colledge said the service would be similar to that held in an episode of BBC TV sitcom The Vicar of Dibley

More than 100 people and their pets, including dogs and a tortoise, have attended a Christmas service for pets.

The Reverend Chris Colledge said the Bournemouth carol service was being held in the style of a ceremony in the hit BBC sitcom The Vicar of Dibley.

Mr Colledge, whose dog Maisie died eight weeks ago from cancer, said it was also a service of remembrance.

Dorset's Police and Crime Commissioner attended Westbourne's St Ambrose Church with his tortoise and two dogs.

Image copyright Martyn Underhill
Image caption Martyn Underhill said it was busy in the church and tweeted this picture of the congregation with their pets
Image copyright Martyn Underhill
Image caption One dog arrived dressed in a Santa suit

Martyn Underhill described the atmosphere at the service as "noisy" but said: "All the animals went quiet when we read Rainbow Bridge."

He said Storm, his 10-year-old female tortoise, had "refused to hibernate" this winter so made the service along with his Shih Tsu dogs Kipling and Poppy.

Image copyright Martyn Underhill
Image caption Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill's dogs Kipling and Poppy were ring bearers at his wedding

However, this was not the first time the animals had visited church as they all attended Mr Underhill's wedding to wife Debbie in September, where Kipling and Poppy took to the aisle as ring bearers.

"I think the service is a great way to celebrate the role animals have in keeping people feeling loved and safe," he said.

Mr Colledge said the service was a time for him to remember his golden retriever Maisie, who had regularly visited local people with dementia, as part of the voluntary organisation Caring Canines.

Other members of the congregation were invited to remember their deceased pets by lighting a candle during the service.

Connor Burns, Conservative MP for Bournemouth West, and leader of Bournemouth Borough Council, John Beesley, also attended the service.

Mr Colledge said "a bountiful supply" of Christmas treats was available for the animals and their "invited human guests".

Image copyright Chris Colledge
Image caption The Reverend Chris Colledge said the service would be a time for him to remember his golden retriever Maisie, who died eight weeks ago

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