RESCUE dogs led a funeral procession in a fitting tribute to a ‘force of nature’.
Scores of well-wishers turned out to say farewell to Mary Hunt, the founder of Chichester and District Dog Rescue Society (CDDRS), who died last month.
The 85-year-old great-grandmother set up the animal charity, based in Rowlands Castle, in 1963 and helped care for thousands of sick and abandoned dogs in that time.
And, fittingly, two of the charity’s rescue dogs led a funeral procession, which also included animal rescue ambulances, to The Oaks Crematorium, in Havant.
Mrs Hunt’s son-in-law, Methodist minister Bill Stillwell, took the service.
Vet Ben Trimmer paid tribute to Mrs Hunt.
He said: ‘For such a tiny, frail lady she was a complete force of nature, very powerful.
‘I didn’t always see eye to eye with Mary but a lot of the time she would be right.
‘On the rare occasion she wasn’t, she would always admit it.
‘Mary’s work was unique.
‘Dogs were her passion and, no matter what else was going on, they came first.
‘I’ve lost count of the number of people Mary helped over the years.
‘But it wasn’t just about the dogs, it was about how they helped other people’s lives.’
Mrs Hunt’s daughter Jan Stillwell described her mother’s extraordinary early life.
She was an only child who was adopted by her grandmother in unusual circumstances.
Her parents tried to reverse the adoption but her father died before they could go through with it.
Her childhood was lonely, spent with just her aunt and grandmother at various private schools where they worked.
She immersed herself in art and literature, and wrote poetry throughout her life.
She was married three times and all ended unhappily.
But there was one constant – her dogs.
Mrs Stillwell said: ‘When she started the society she experienced true independence for the first time.
‘She made many good friends. She once said, “dogs give you unconditional love and they never let you down”.
‘And she was rightly proud of what she had achieved.’
Andrew Morley is the chairman of CDDRS and has vowed to keep the organisation going.
He credits Mrs Hunt with saving him following a serious nervous breakdown that left him unable to speak for 10 years.
He added: ‘There was no-one else like Mary.
‘She was a wonderful woman.’
To make a donation pop into either of the charity shops in Copnor Road and London Road, Portsmouth.
Or donate via Co-operative Funeralcare, 224 Dunsbury Way, Leigh Park.