A Tree Grows For Moose The Dog In Brooklyn's Prospect Park

June 25, 2023 0 By JohnValbyNation

PROSPECT PARK, BROOKLYN — Moose the dog is now a permanent memory in the park he loved.

A memorial tree for Moose — who died after an attack by a crazed man — was planted in a ceremony Friday outside Prospect Park’s Third Street Playground that drew a crowd of friends, strangers and, of course, dogs.

Together, they signed photographs of Moose and shoveled dirt around the tree’s roots.

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“I’m just glad Moose’s memory is in the park,” Moose’s owner Jessica Chrustic said.

The ceremony served to turn the page on a tragedy for Chrustic and the wider community around Prospect Park.

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Chrustic had walked to the park with Moose from their Park Slope home every day until Aug. 3. That day an unhinged man — a persistent threatening presence in the park — beat them both with a stick.

Moose died of internal injuries days later, leaving Chrustic bereft.

“They were both supportive for each other,” said Elaine Chrustic, Jessica’s mother, warding off tears.

“I’m feeling that it might be a little bit of closure emotionally for her,” said Jessica’s father Dusan Chrustic.

As Dusan Chrustic spoke, he took stock of the peaceful scene around the memorial tree: friends, family, strangers and dogs all happy.

It’s a peace that the attack on Jessica Chrustic showed could easily be shattered.

Dusan Chrustic still bristles at how, in his view, the public servants meant to keep that peace — the NYPD — failed his daughter time and time again. He recalled Jessica’s second run-in with the attacker — a harrowing encounter that unfolded after she said she tried unsuccessfully to flag police down.

“Quite honestly, as a parent I was most upset when she was running down the street,” he said.

“When someone is in need, that is their primary job. It’s not asking a lot.”

And just as Dusan Chrustic doesn’t feel the neighborhood is as safe for Jessica, others feel the same way.

The attack became the focus of citywide and national attention, in large part because it unfolded in the safe confines of largely progressive Park Slope.

In some ways, it became a microcosm of tensions among liberals over policing itself. Those spilled out as a local man, Kristian Nammack, tried to found a community safety patrol called the Park Slope Panthers.

The group’s very first meeting devolved into arguments as some activists accused Nammack of being a vigilante. Afterward, he told Patch that someone graffitied the sidewalk outside his door with a message: “Don’t be a cop.”

Nammack, who attended the memorial, stressed he doesn’t believe in vigilantism, which he said chagrined one now-ousted Fox News host who wanted to interview him.

“I don’t think Tucker Carlson wanted me to say that,” he said.

But Nammack said the fact remains that an unsafe person still remains in the park.

“It’s important to not forget what happened, and it’s not resolved,” he said.

The ceremony itself made clear that memories of Moose, happy in the park he loved, will endure.

Memorial tree plantings are one of only two ways that landscape trees are added to the park, Susan Sharer, the Prospect Park Alliance’s director of development, told the crowd.

The bald cypress tree that honors Moose will join two others near the park’s Third Street playground. It’s barely taller than a human being now, but it’ll grow a foot or two a year until it reaches upward of 120 feet.

And it’ll be an everlasting memorial to Moose: bald cypress trees live for 600 years.

Chrustic spoke to the crowd before they and park staff shoveled dirt around the tree.

“Everyone who is here has supported me immensely and shown me lightness in a very dark time,” she said.

Beyond Chrustic’s family and friends, several people who didn’t know her and Moose but were touched by the story showed up.

One of them — Justina Elwitt — took two dogs with her to watch the planting. She called the attack “heartbreaking.”

“So, I wanted to show up and support,” she said.

At least one person was a stranger to Chrustic before the attack, but has since become a close friend. Nicole Haddad, who believes she was attacked by the same man in 2019, stood by Chrustic’s side through much of the planting.

“I just want Moose to know he’ll never be forgotten,” she said.

And Chrustic has a new canine companion: Pancake, a rescue dog.

After months, Chrustic tentatively decided to look for another dog. She said that two weeks ago she met Pancake at Sean Casey Animal Rescue.

“I wasn’t sure I was ready, but he chose me,” she said, with a smile.

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