For Anna Arlet, Eva Betz and Natalie Marquiss, earning their Girl Scout Silver Award was filled with joy.
The girls spent nearly a year researching, fundraising and executing projects to help the McCandless Police Department’s K9 officer, Joy, and securing pet CPR masks for the Peebles Volunteer Fire Department.
“All three of us love animals, and we all have pets, At first, we thought we’d do a project to help stray animals, but that idea morphed into something to help our first-responders,” explained Arlet, 15, of Franklin Park.
The girls worked closely with Sgt. Bryan Madden of the McCandless Police Department, who voiced a need for an obstacle course for his canine partner, Joy, a 3-year-old German Shepherd who assists in drug searches, apprehending suspects, locating missing persons and visiting schools. Joy is involved in as many as five calls a day.
The girls custom-built a four-piece obstacle course using wood and PVC piping. It features hoops, slalom poles, jumps of varying heights and a teeter-totter to help Joy gain confidence running and maneuvering on moving surfaces.
Each activity in the course is free-standing, so items can be mixed up and re-arranged to create new challenges.
“We got ideas for the obstacle course by watching YouTube videos and looking up websites and training videos,” said Betz, 15, of Franklin Park. “When we dropped it off at the police station, Joy was so happy and excited.”
While the course was designed to help Joy improve agility and stamina, it also serves to strengthen the bond between Joy and Sgt. Madden, his handler.
“The course helps us to work together as a team to accomplish a task. That is extremely important in creating and strengthening a bond,” Sgt. Madden explained. “A strong bond is essential in making Joy braver to protect me and have trust in me.”
The girls donated an extra-large dog crate to the police department, too. Sgt. Madden keeps it in his office.
The girls also purchased animal CPR masks and donated them to Peebles Volunteer Fire Department in McCandless for pet rescues.
“The fire department only had human oxygen masks, which are too big for pets,” said Marquiss, 14, of Franklin Park.
The girls originally planned to provide the fire department with one pet mask, but were able to raise enough money through a community bake sale to purchase five, which is enough to equip each emergency vehicle at the station with one.
Marquiss created a presentation to teach the first responders how to properly use and clean the masks, and designed a page for the station’s website to inform community members on ways they can support the fire department through donations and other means.
The project spanned September 2017 to June 2018. The girls were officially granted their Silver Award last month. It is the second highest award of the Girl Scouts of the USA, and the highest award that a Girl Scout Cadette can earn.