'He would have loved this': City names dog park after Nathan Cirillo

On Tuesday, the city of Hamilton formally named the Ancaster leash-free dog park after fallen Argyll reservist Nathan Cirillo, with his family looking on.

Ancaster leash-free dog park was a place Cirillo truly loved coming with his 3 dogs, family says

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      Canada will forever remember Nathan Cirillo as a soldier who died serving his country, and his family will too – but they'll also remember a gallant young man who loved his dogs and the people around him.

      On Tuesday, the city of Hamilton formally named the Ancaster leash-free dog park after the fallen reservist, with his family looking on.

      "He spent a lot of time here. He loved it, and he would have loved this," said Cirillo's stepfather Victor Briffa. "Things like this … there have been a lot of bright lights."

      "But it doesn't take away the pain."

      They've lost a soldier – we lost a son.- Victor Briffa, Stepfather

      Thursday marks one year since Cirillo – a member of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders – was shot while standing as a ceremonial guard at the National War Memorial in Ottawa. His family has largely stayed out of the spotlight since then.

      Cirillo's mother and his young son Marcus have moved out of Hamilton in an effort to shield themselves from all of the attention.

      But Briffa said the family is still eternally grateful to Canadians for all their support.

      "They're still finding it tough," he said. "They've lost a soldier – we lost a son."

      Soldier would have been 'honoured, humbled and happy'

      Marcus – who captured the hearts of many during his father's funeral last year while walking through the streets in his ceremonial cap – attended the ceremony, as did his mother Kathy.

      His sisters Nicole and Natasha came too, along with Cirillo's dogs Jagger, Maya and Kaya – who was seen around the world in a picture poking her nose underneath a gate at the family's home not long after Cirillo died.

      Honourary Cpl. Ron Foxcroft read a statement from the family, saying that Cirillo would have been "honoured, humbled and happy" by the city's move to name the park after him.

      "This is a very fitting tribute to a gallant young man," he said.

      'It's etched in their souls now'

      Speaking after the ceremony, Lt.-Col. Peter St. Denis of the Argylls said Hamiltonians will never forget where they were when they found out Cirillo was shot – likening it to an older generation remembering where they were when President Kennedy died.

      "It's etched in their souls now," St. Denis said. "It was one of those tangible moments that really touches your heart."

      Dozens of people attended the naming ceremony with their dogs in tow. This is the second place that has been named in Cirillo's honour, after a patrol base in Iraq.

      His former unit has also planned a sunset ceremony in Hamilton on Wednesday to commemorate his service and support his family.

      The ceremony will take place at the Bayfront Park Pavillion on Oct. 21, and will incorporate members of the unit, veterans, and the Cirillo family themselves.

      adam.carter@cbc.ca

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