Lawrence Township Council awards contract for Hero Dog Park

Scott Jacobs
Abby spend some time running and playing fetch at the Thompson Dog Park in Monroe on Aug 16.

A Bayville-based contractor will build Hero Dog Park at Hamnett Park on Ohio Avenue.

The Lawrence Township Council awarded the contract to TC Landscape Construction Group to build the dog park at its Sept. 20 meeting. Its bid at $496,740 was the lower of two bids submitted for the job. The second contractor offered a bid of $802,910.

Hero Dog Park will be the second dog park in Lawrence Township, and the first one in the southern part of the township. There is a dog park at Village Park, which is in the northern end of the township.

“South Lawrence needs a dog park,” Municipal Manager Kevin Nerwinski has said.

The dog park will have two fenced-in areas. One fenced-in area will be for small dogs and the other will be for large dogs.

Each fenced-in area will have shade structures, benches, waste disposal stations, dog-friendly water fountains and other dog park features, Nerwinski said.

Superintendent of Recreation Nancy Bergen suggested naming it “Hero Dog Park” after reading an article in The Lawrence Ledger written by the late James Hewitt in 1995. Hewitt, who died in 2012, was a World War II veteran and was present during Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Hewitt, who was a retired Lawrence police officer, wrote that when he was stationed on a small island in the South Pacific, he befriended a captured German shepherd that had been trained as a war dog by the Japanese army. The dog was adopted by Hewitt and his U.S. Army unit, who named him Moose.

Hewitt wrote that he and Moose developed a bond that lasted until Hewitt was transferred to Hawaii for jungle training school. He had to leave the dog behind. Moose was later transferred to a U.S. Army base to attend K-9 training school. Moose “entered” the U.S. Army and served alongside American soldiers.

Hewitt kept track of Moose, hoping to be reunited with the dog after the war. But Moose was killed in June 1945 when he leaped on a hand grenade to protect his handler. The hand grenade was tossed toward Moose and his handler by one of two Japanese soldiers they had discovered hiding in the grass.

Hewitt received a letter from the Central Pacific Base Command that explained how Moose died. The dog knew the hand grenade was a weapon and he jumped on it as it exploded. The dog save his handler’s life, the letter said.

“Somewhere on the Pacific island of Okinawa (Japan) where Moose died, there is a grave marked ‘Moose, U.S. Army K-9 Corps, Army Serial Number OX-79, killed in action against the enemy June 20, 1945,'” Hewitt wrote in the newspaper article.