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Neighbors of Kane County

Local High School student uses Eagle Scout project to create dog agility equipment for Anderson Animal Shelter

Oct 24, 2016 12:06PM ● By Neighbors Magazines

Erik Gustafson, a 17-year-old St. Charles North High School junior, combined his love of animals and his Eagle Scout project to create agility training equipment for the adoptable dogs at Anderson Animal Shelter.

Gustafson recently presented Anderson with three pieces of equipment that will be used to keep the adoptable dogs active and learning new skills while they wait to be adopted. 

“I am happy that I am able to help the dogs in the shelter and give them something different and exciting to do,” said Gustafson, who lives in St. Charles. “It feels great to improve the lives of the animals at Anderson.”

For the project, Gustafson and other members of Boy Scout Troop 56 constructed three pieces of equipment – an A-frame, dog walk and pause table. All are common equipment and obstacles used in dog agility training. The large, adjustable A-frame, also called a scaling wall, encourages dogs to walk up and down a wide, high platform. The dog walk has three planks, building a dog’s balance and confidence. The pause table is used to teach a dog different positions and skills. 

When searching for an Eagle Scout project, he contacted Anderson staff to determine if there was an opportunity for him to make something to benefit the shelter. The agility equipment fit perfectly with the shelter’s focus on animal enrichment and positive reinforcement training. Plus, it fulfilled a personal interest for Gustafson. “I love animals and adopted a shelter dog a couple of years ago -- a golden retriever named Max,” he said. “I wanted to help other dogs get a good home like Max has.”

Gustafson researched the types of wood and how to make the equipment weather-resistant since it will be kept in the outside dog play area at the shelter in South Elgin. He found most wood-working plans online, except for the dog walk, which he ended up designing himself based on a photo. He said the most time-consuming part of the project was priming and painting all the pieces – which are a colorful blue and yellow.

“We greatly appreciate Erik’s work, commitment and skills that will benefit many adoptable dogs, while helping him become an Eagle Scout,” said Beth Drake, executive director of Anderson Animal Shelter. “Our dogs at the shelter are already putting the equipment to good use, and it enhances their daily enrichment and training until they find great homes.”

Erik Gustafson made three pieces of dog agility equipment, including this A-frame, for Anderson Animal Shelter.

The project is one step on Gustafson’s way toward fulfilling the requirements to become an Eagle Scout. “I am very close,” he said. “To become an Eagle you need a project, a leadership position, and certain Eagle-required merit badges. I need only three more Eagle merit badges until I get my Eagle so hopefully I can get those done within a timely manner.”

Gustafson’s journey in scouting started in the first grade, when he joined Cub Scouts with his older brother. As a member of Boy Scout Troop 56, he has held previous leadership positions, including assistant leader and librarian. At St. Charles North, he is a member of the cross country and track teams.