Lawrence Township officials are moving forward with plans to create a dog park – dubbed “Hero Dog Park” – at Hamnett Park on Ohio Avenue in the southern part of Lawrence Township.
The Lawrence Township Council awarded a contract of $ 24,300 to ACT Engineers for the design of the dog park. The proposal provides for two fenced areas: one for small dogs and one for large dogs.
Each fenced area would have shade structures, benches, waste disposal stations, dog friendly water fountains, signage, and other dog park features. A concept plan is being reviewed by township officials, City Manager Kevin Nerwinski said.
“South Lawrence needed a dog park,” Nerwinski said. There is a dog park in Village Park in the northern part of the township, but nothing in the southern part of town.
The suggestion to name the dog park Hero Dog Park arose from a newspaper article written by the late James Hewitt in The Lawrence Ledger in 1995. Hewitt, who died in 2012, was a WWII veteran and was present at Pearl Harbor when it was bombed by Japan.
Hewitt, who was a retired Lawrence Township police officer, wrote that when stationed on a small island in the South Pacific, he befriended a captured German Shepherd who had been trained as war dog by the Japanese army. The dog was adopted by Hewitt and his US Army unit, who named him Moose.
Hewitt wrote that he and Moose developed a bond that lasted until Hewitt transferred to Hawaii for jungle training school. He must have left the dog behind. Moose was then transferred to a US Army base to attend K-9 training school. Moose “entered” into the United States Army and served alongside American soldiers.
Hewitt kept track of Moose, hoping to find the dog after the war. But Moose was killed in June 1945 when he jumped on a hand grenade to protect his master. The hand grenade was thrown at Moose and his master by one of the two Japanese soldiers they had discovered hiding in the grass.
Hewitt received a letter from Central Pacific Base Command explaining how Moose died. The dog knew the hand grenade was a weapon and jumped on it when it exploded. The dog saved his master’s life, according to the letter.
“Somewhere on the Pacific Island of Okinawa where Moose died, there is a grave marked ‘Moose, US Army K-9 Corps, Army Serial Number OX-79. Killed in action with the enemy on June 20, 1945, ”Hewitt wrote in the newspaper article.
Nerwinski said he was unaware that the dogs served in the military during World War II to the extent that Moose served.
When Nancy Bergen, the township’s recreation superintendent, read Hewitt’s article, she immediately pleaded for Hero Dog Park to honor Hewitt and Moose, he said.
“It took about 30 seconds after Nancy explained why he should be named (for Hewitt and Moose) before I was 100%,” Nerwinski said.