Honoring Military Dogs

In San Pedro, CA there's a woman with a very noble mission. Dorothy Matich has started a grass-roots movement to raise money to refurbish the...

In San Pedro, CA there’s a woman with a very noble mission.

Dorothy Matich has started a grass-roots movement to raise money to refurbish the military dog cemetery.

The way Dorothy Matich sees it, the war dogs buried at San Pedro’s former Army base deserve a respectable resting place.

“They’re veterans, as far as I’m concerned,” Matich said.

Through the years, the cemetery for more than 30 military canines that helped guard the coastline during the Cold War years had fallen into disrepair.

Some of the bronze grave markers were stolen, along with a life-size statue of a German shepherd that once “guarded” the unique burial ground.

Steve Nelson, curator of the Fort MacArthur Museum located inside Angels Gate Park, had long wanted to restore the canine cemetery, but lacked the funds to do so.

While on a visit to the museum Dorothy Matich learned of the cemetery and curator Steve Nelson’s wish to restore it. A one woman dog loving machine Matich has managed to raise thousands to go towards the renovations.

Through teas and small-scale fundraisers, Matich and other San Pedro supporters – Florence Kleinjan and Alan and Liz Johnson among them – managed to raise enough money to install a new wrought-iron fence around the cemetery. Private donations also were solicited, with the Petco Foundation donating $1,000.

An irrigation system has been installed with new turf yet to come. Sculptor Eugene
Daub is working on a design for a new dog statue for the cemetery.

Replicas of the bronze grave markers – although some are missing, others remain locked safely away in the museum – will be made and placed in the cemetery.

The markers bear the names of the dogs – Lance, Baron, Jack, Winner, Pancho, Fritz – along with their military service dates.

The museum has many very interesting exhibits, including a history of the “K-9 Command.” It’s definitely worth visiting if you’re in the area.

For anyone interested in making a donation for the cemetery project you can do so online, or by sending a check made out to the Fort MacArthur Museum Association (designated for the “K-9 Cemetery”) to the Fort MacArthur Museum, P.O. Box 268, San Pedro, CA 90731.

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