OAK HILL — A long-ago dog named Spot was fondly remembered Sunday on the spot of the new Doctor Hamilton Dog Park and K-9 Memorial on Central Avenue.
During his remarks at the dedication of the new facility on a brilliant fall Sunday afternoon, City Manager Bill Hannabass recounted a story concerning Dr. E.S. Hamilton, the namesake of the new dog park and memorial.
"We stand on the ground of Dr. Hamilton, where he practiced medicine many years ago," said Hannabass. More than a century ago, Hannabass recounted, "Dr. Hamilton made house calls on a horse with a lantern.
"On all these house calls, his dog went with him. I don't think he ever dreamed that we would be talking about his dog this many years later. If he had, I believe he would have given him a more original name. Doc Hamilton's dog was named Spot.
"And when he went on these house calls, he didn't go as a family pet for companionship; he had a duty. His duty was when the doctor tethered his horse, Spot guarded the horse against thieves, other dogs, whatever came down the road. His job was to faithfully guard the horse no matter how long, how cold or how late it was.
"So with that being said, I believe that if Dr. Hamilton were here today, I believe he would be proud that this memorial to K-9s is on his property, and I think that he would also be glad that we talked about his dog and honored his dog's duty."
On Sunday, Hannabass thanked, among others, Langhorne Lewis Abrams, granddaughter of Dr. Hamilton, and her husband, Dave. "They donated this property graciously to the city of Oak Hill. That's why we're here," he said. "This property is now public property. Thank you very much."
"The family (Abrams and her two sisters) decided we wanted to give the property to the city," Langhorne Lewis Abrams said Sunday. "The house was right here. My mother had already torn down the house. There were some outbuildings.
"We felt like the city could turn it into a green space or something. This was their concept, and we were delighted. It's wonderful. The city's been great. We thought it would be a wonderful tribute to my grandparents and my mother (Nancy Pat Hamilton Lewis), so we love it."
The city manager also had words of praise for Destination: Downtown Oak Hill, a volunteer group which spearheaded fundraising for the dog park. "They help with any and all projects that improve the City of Oak Hill," said Hannabass. "They're a breath of fresh air, optimistic bunch of people, and they do a lot of unsung, great things."
To Jamie Lester, the sculptor who fashioned the 4-foot bronze of a German Shepherd with a police badge similar to the badges of the Oak Hill Police Department, Hannabass said, "I appreciate your talent. ... In a few moments (he told the crowd), you're gonna see what I'm talking about."
Many other people made the project possible, including current and past mayors and city council members, said Hannabass.
Hannabass also thanked Kaye Ballard, of High Lawn Memorial Park, for her "invaluable" contributions. "This park will be a place where these officers can intern their K-9 so that they always have a place of honor."
Monetary donations and assistance also came from the Bank of Mount Hope, Premier Financial, Oak Hill Animal Hospital, Linda Morrison, Larry Richmond, Richard Martin, John and Debra Garvin, and Jim, Brett, Mike and Matt Lively, Hannabass pointed out.
"We remember and honor the K-9 and his duty, past, present and future," he said.
Sgt. Chris Young, who is a former K-9 handler and a 14-year Oak Hill Police Department veteran, read the names of past and current K-9 officers and their handlers during the ceremony. He called it an "honor" to represent "all the K-9 officers, especially in this county."
Young had a special shout-out for retired Fayette County Deputy Charles Bryant, the first K-9 handler in the county. "He set a precedent of having dogs in this county and obviously did well by the looks of it," Young said. "As a kid, Charlie was the first police officer I ever saw with a dog, and I thought that was the greatest thing ever."
Young also thanked Oak Hill Police Chief Mike Whisman and city council for allowing him the opportunity to work with K-9 Marco for 6 1/2 years.
"The old adage is a dog is a man's best friend," said Oak Hill Mayor Danny Wright. "I would like to add another best friend and that's law enforcement. I think law enforcement who protect and serve us 24 hours a day, seven days a week are also our best friend. And these men here today, these dogs and this statue should be a testament to that, as well."
Vandalia Bronze's Lester, a Southern West Virginia native known for his bronzes of famous West Virginians such as Jerry West, “Hot Rod” Hundley and Don Knotts, as well as creating the design chosen to appear on the West Virginia state quarter, created the K-9 statue.
In his remarks after K-9 Arras and his handler, Fayette County Sheriff Lt. Nick Mooney, uncovered the statue, Lester thanked many who supported the park concept as it evolved, including the Lively family. "These guys all had faith in us from the very beginning that we could create a wonderful monument here, and hopefully we've done it justice," he said.
He also singled out his business partner, Jeff Edwards, with whom he runs Vandalia Bronze. "It's not a one-man" operation, Lester said. "It takes a team effort."
"And I know I speak for the sheriff (Mike Fridley) here, too," said Whisman. "(We) thank the K-9 officers; they're dedicated officers. We could never pay them for the dedication that they show with these animals. ... It takes a special officer to do that."
Whisman also thanked all those who participated in the project either financially or in another fashion, and he praised Lester for his work. Glancing back at the statue, Whisman said, "That's tremendous, that's unreal, ..."
In his invocation, the Rev. Michael Hicks, pastor of the Jones Ave. Church of God, said, "Lord, may you continue to protect and look after our law enforcement officers. ... Lord, we thank you for this community; we pray that you'll continue to bless it, even as we've gathered here today."
• • •
Following is the police dog oath inscribed at the base of the statue:
"I will lay down my life for you
and expect nothing but love in return.
I protect my officer with my life,
and would gladly take a bullet in his place.
I am sent in to find lost children
and fugitives on the run.
I find drugs and weapons and even bombs.
I am the first sent in
and sometimes the last to leave.
I am the nose and ears of my officer.
I will protect and serve him.
I would die for him and for you.
I only ask for compassion and a kind word."
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