Iraq war veteran, police K9 partner receive surprise patriotic doghouse
By LORI COMSTOCK | The New Jersey Herald | Published: January 3, 2020
HACKETTSTOWN, N.J. — Lou DiBella, a woodworking hobbyist who has constructed various projects in his free time, was in the spirit of giving this Christmas season and wanted to donate a patriotic doghouse to one deserving recipient.
He considered donating the red, white and blue flag-designed shelter to a military organization, a municipality or maybe even the American Kennel Club, DiBella, of Scotch Plains, stated in a Facebook post dated Dec. 16.
Late last week, the Hackettstown Police Department announced that Patrolman Chris Laver, an Iraq war veteran, and his K9 partner Jada, were the proud recipients of the single-bed home fit for a dog.
Laver and his canine companion were gifted the doghouse on Dec. 26.
Jada is a 5-year-old Belgian Malinois who was adopted as a puppy by Laver. Laver, who started his career with the Sussex County Sheriff’s Department before joining the Hackettstown police force in 2011, said he approached the police chief and Town Council about starting a K9 unit.
Jada became certified in 2017 in detecting narcotics, missing persons, lost items and weapons and often shows off her impressive skills during K9 demonstrations across Warren and Sussex counties.
DiBella had a vision to donate the doghouse to a military veteran after he was inspired when President Donald Trump honored K9 Conan, according to Hackettstown Sgt. Darren Tynan. Conan, also a Beligian Malinois, chased down Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in late October 2019 and was wounded when the ISIS leader deployed a suicide vest.
Laver served from 2005 to 2006 in Iraq with the 10th Mountain Division’s 57th Gun Truck Company, police said.
Laver, who told the New Jersey Herald in October that his K9 partner is the “best I’ve ever had,” was surprised with the gift and wrote in a post on Facebook: “DiBella should be positively recognized for his dedication and hard work — he does this woodwork aside from his full-time job!”
DiBella said his inspiration to build his first doghouse came about three months ago when his oldest daughter wanted him to build a doghouse for their family dog, Sophie. He posted the finished results on his Facebook page and had great feedback, later creating four more doghouses for customers and one he donated to his company for the United Way.
The patriotic doghouse, he said, took about 45 hours to build, paint and customize. But it was well worth it, he said, adding, “Just my simple way of saying thank you to our service men, women, and of course, dogs, for protecting our freedoms.”
His hobby building doghouses, he said, has now turned into an obsession and he is excited to get to work on his next projects.
Following the social media post from the Hackettstown police, Laver said there has been many “negative” comments and assumptions about the doghouse and its use.
While the doghouse can be used indoors or outdoors, Laver said Jada’s new shelter will be placed in his office “where it is heated and very comfortable.”
“Jada will utilize it during her downtime when we go off duty,” Laver said.
Jada is housed inside but also spends time off-duty in a large indoor/outdoor kennel, Laver said, that is heated, air conditioned and has cameras. She even likes to listen to music, Laver said, to “soothe her soul.”
Jada will never be left out in the cold, with Laver adding, “I am a native to Jersey and fully aware of its climate.”
Just “embrace” the story, he added, and if anyone has questions, they are free to write him on social media.