When it came time for Dominic Andrews, a longtime scout with Troop 316 in Levittown, to choose an Eagle Scout project, he immediately knew which population he wanted it to benefit — veterans.
After conducting some research of area organizations, he reached out to Alpha Bravo Canine, a 501(c)(3) that raises, trains and donates service dogs to veterans suffering from PTSD and other debilitating medical/psychological problems that resulted from their active duty combat.
For the Philadelphia-based nonprofit, which also has a training space in Newtown, the recent graduate of Bucks County Technical High School planned, designed and built puppy training equipment.
Tracy Ruepp, ABC’s puppy raising director, explained how Andrews constructed two sets of steps with a platform connecting the two sides. On one side, the steps are deeper than the other.
“This enables our service dogs in training to practice different types of steps without pulling,” said Ruepp. “This is especially important if we have a veteran coming into our program who has a physical disability. This project has enabled Alpha Bravo Canine to really work on the basics of ‘step training’ without having to leave our facility before we take the service dogs in training out into a public setting. It has truly been a beneficial and helpful addition to our organization.”
Also constructed were pivot boxes used for balance training and a portable (and adorable) puppy kissing booth that ABC plans to use at promotional events.
Ruepp shared that, in the U.S., an average of 20 veterans commit suicide each day. Alpha Bravo Canine, established in 2015, works to save lives via little furry friends.
“The dog is trained to pick up on their movements and their breathing. We train the dogs to monitor breathing patterns for anxiety,” she said. “It goes a long way to getting the veterans their life back. Some of them can’t leave the house because of their anxiety and PTSD, and they’re able to once they get a dog. It gives the veterans another purpose with the dog.”
Andrews, assisted by a self-assembled crew of 17 volunteers, including fellow scouts, leaders, family and friends, finished the project in 335 hours. Thanks to fundraising efforts, the entire cost of the project was covered.
The Bristol Township council recognized Andrews during its recent meeting. Council president Craig Bowen said, “It’s great to see dedication and hanging in there and getting to the point of Eagle Scout.”
For those unfamiliar, becoming an Eagle Scout is the highest honor that one can achieve, but it’s not easy. According to Northern Star Scouting, only about 6 percent of all scouts earn this rank. Those working to achieve this goal prior to turning 18 must complete an application, service project workbook and other steps.
Throughout his years with Troop 316, Andrews held various positions, including patrol leader, senior patrol leader and scribe.
Accolades from his years at BCTHS include the Presidential Award for Outstanding Academic Excellence and Distinguished Senior in a Civil Engineering Technology. He’s currently in his freshman year at Elizabethtown College, where he plans to obtain degrees in civil engineering and physics.
“Scouting was some of the best years of my life. I definitely won’t be forgetting it anytime soon,” said Andrews. “It’s taught me a lot of valuable lessons and I was very, very thankful to be a part of that.”
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org