A course in hard work -- and fun
To the scouts in Boy Scout Troop 237, the task before them -- to build, paint and assemble a series of wooden ramps and walls -- didn't look like much fun.
It was to become an agility course for Blitz, the Cottage Grove Police Department's German Shepherd K-9 dog, and his partner, officer Mike Vandervort.
The boys reacted, said Barry Caswell, one of the troop's assistant scoutmasters, like kids do when adults give them an assignment.
In other words: they weren't too excited.
"We thought it was going to be hard and boring," said 12-year-old Noah Halbur last week, more than a year after the group started the project and a little less than a month after watching Blitz conquer it for the first time. "Then, it was hard and fun."
The Cottage Grove Crime Prevention Board funded the project. Caswell, a mechanical designer, drew up the plans for the course, which had to be exactly to the specifications of the course Blitz must complete as part of yearly K-9 certification.
Then, evening after evening last fall, the 14 members of Troop 237 got together at Rose of Sharon Lutheran Church in Cottage Grove and started measuring, cutting (with help from parents) and screwing together a new agility course.
It was finished last autumn -- but then came the wait until spring, when the troop reassembled the course on land provided by 3M Cottage Grove.
Vandervort and Blitz used to train on courses in other cities whose police departments had a K-9 program. Now, he said, they'll be able to train more often -- and more conveniently, without leaving Cottage Grove.
"It was really kind of a cool process, watching the younger kids work with the older kids, and the older kids work with the adults," Vandervort said. "It was a really neat process to see these kids throw this together in such an organized way."
Troop 237 learned a valuable lesson through the project, assistant scoutmaster Paul LeMay said, one central to being a Boy Scout of America: hard work can feel good. And helping others does too.
"The boys got it," he said. "You start showing them tape measures, and screws, and drills and they got it. They learned a lot."
Meeting Blitz and Vandervort helped the project take on more importance to the group, said Roger Grossklaus, another of the troop's assistant scoutmasters. And 12-year-old Boy Scout Thayne Zeimet said it was satisfying to help.
It felt good "building it for the dog," Zeimet said, "and knowing we did something good for Cottage Grove."