SIDNEY — A love of animals has led a Houston High School graduate to the highest award a Girl Scout can earn.
Kierstyn Oberdorf, daughter of Christine and Brian Helman, and Larry Oberdorf Jr., earned the girl Scout Gold Award by creating a dog course for the Shelby County Animal Shelter. She received her Gold Award from the Girl Scouts in the spring.
Oberdorf is a member of Girl Scout Troop 2063. She is a 2021 graduate of Houston High School.
“I knew that I wanted to do something for the dogs at the Shelby County Animal Shelter because I’ve always loved animals,” said Oberdorf of how she picked her project. “So, I came up with the idea for an agility course and made a list of obstacles I could build. I asked Deputy (Kelli) Ward which obstacles would be best and she suggested just building a replica of the agility course the Shelby County Sheriff dogs use for training.”
In order to be eligible for the Gold Award, Oberdorf had to achieve both her Bronze and Silver Awards as well as complete a Gold Award journey and attend a Gold Award workshop. The Gold Award journey included a Take Action project, which she completed with her troop during her freshman year.
“Together we created donation boxes and set them up at local stores. Generous people donated dog and cat food, toys and cat litter,” said Oberdorf. “We then donated the supplies to the Miami County Animal Shelter. We also made blankets and dog treats as part of our Take Action project, which we donated to the Shelby County Animal Shelter.”
In terms of the requirements for her Gold Award, it must consist of at least 80 volunteer hours. It has to be sustainable, impactful of a need she found in her community, and further her leadership skills.
“The need that I saw in my community was that shelter dogs were not getting adopted as quickly as I would like. The dogs were staying at the shelter for months on end before anyone even became interested,” said Oberdorf. “My hope is that my Gold Award brings the shelter some popularity and shows potential adopters that the dogs can be trained and aren’t as spastic as previously thought. The hardest aspect for me was sustainability because I had a lot of ideas, but it is hard to make something sustainable if you aren’t checking up on it all the time. However, a wood project would be sustainable in and of itself, which is part of the reason why I chose to build something out of wood for my Gold Award. Also, the animal shelter has a trainer who will be using the agility course to train their dogs. So it will be used indefinitely.”
Oberdorf had to present the project idea to the Girl Scout Council and they had to approve it before she could officially start working on it. That was completed in November 2019.
She asked Ward which obstacles she would prefer in the agility course.
“She asked if I could just make the same obstacles that the Shelby County Sheriff dogs are trained on,” said Oberdorf. “After I started bringing some of the completed pieces over I asked the trainer what she thought of the items and she was just happy that I was building them for the shelter.”
Oberdorf is a member of the Dog Gone 4-H Club.
“Every year I show my dog in obedience and showmanship at the Shelby County Fair. For showmanship, each of us are interviewed and quizzed regarding random facts about dogs. We are given a list of dog questions we look up the answers for in our dog project book. I looked in this same book for ideas about an agility course,” sid Oberdorf. “So, I got my ideas from that book and then I found pictures of the different obstacles I could build on the Internet. I then asked Deputy Ward which pieces from my list of obstacles she would prefer that I build. She just wanted a replica of the agility course that the sheriff’s dogs use for training.”
It was a group effort to build each obstacle.
“My family and I built the items together. There were certain things my parents didn’t want me to do by myself, such as ripping boards with a circular saw, which can be pretty dangerous. So, my parents helped me with building and assembling some of the pieces. We also painted all the pieces, too,” she said.
Oberdorf had to ask for sponsors in order to raise money to build the agility course.
“The difficulty was that just as I began looking for sponsors, COVID-19 hit and Ohio shut down. So my project was actually delayed a few months,” she said. “Then in June and July I sent out letters to local businesses asking for donations. I had a few businesses and family members sponsor me. My sponsors were Waite, Tomb, & Eberly LLP, Larry Oberdorf Jr., Christine and Brian Helman, and Meyer’s Garage. However, Worch Lumber also gave me free shipping on the wood that I needed to build the agility pieces, and there were a lot of people who donated their time. These people were Christine & Brian Helman, Erik Stricker, Carl, Cameron and Angie Bowersock, and Deputy Kelli Ward.”
The project took quite a bit of time because of COVID-19 delaying it and it took a while for Oberdorf to get started.
“My sophomore year was when I first started brainstorming about what I wanted to do for my Gold Award. I knew I wanted to do something for the Shelby County Animal Shelter, but I wasn’t sure exactly what. The thing I was struggling with the most was how to make it sustainable. Wood, in and of itself, is sustainable, so I thought building something might be the easiest way to check sustainability off the list.” said Oberdorf. “That’s when I came up with the idea of an agility course since it would need to be built from pressure treated wood in order to last. My junior year I started researching agility course obstacles, put together a list of which ones I could make, and asked Deputy Ward what she preferred I make for the animal shelter. She asked if I could just make the same agility course that the Sheriff’s dogs use. So, my mom and I went over to that course and took measurements of the obstacles. I created a list of the materials I would need for all the obstacles.”
The project came to fruition when the first animals were able to run the course.
”I felt a great sense of pride to know that all my hard work and determination had finally paid off. I felt really happy to know that the dogs liked their agility course and that it was going to make an impact in their lives,” said Oberdorf.
”I picked the Shelby County Animal Shelter for my Gold Award project because I’ve always loved animals and I knew that I wanted my project to have a lasting impact on the animals in the community. I figured that doing something impactful for the animal shelter would impact the most animals in my community. Plus, I wanted to bring awareness to the shelter dogs and provide them with an outlet for their energy. The other good thing about the agility course is that the shelter dogs need to know basic obedience in order to use the agility course. Basic obedience is better in helping the dogs to get adopted quicker. My ultimate goal was to help more shelter dogs find their forever families quicker,” she said.
Oberdorf’s Gold Award also had a second purpose.
“The issue my Gold Award project addresses is the abundance of dogs in shelters, specifically at my local animal shelter. My concern is that dogs are not being adopted because they have too much pent-up energy by being in kennels all day and night. They don’t have a lot of ways to express their energy. When families come to the shelter with adoption in mind, they are less likely to adopt a dog that is super spastic and not well trained,” she said. “My Gold Award project will help shelter dogs have something to do when they are let out in the run during the day. It will help them burn more of their energy and be happier dogs, which will also help them be calmer when adoptive families come to the shelter. In addition, there is a trainer who comes to the animal shelter and will train the dogs on the agility course. In order to participate in an agility course, dogs need to know basic commands such as sit, down, and stay. My agility course will ultimately help the dogs become better trained, and my hope is that more dogs will be adopted sooner.”