King High student’s Eagle project aids dogs, students
TEMPLE TERRACE - Tyler Anderson’s Eagle Scout project is a win, win, win for everyone concerned. The 16-year-old Temple Terrace resident and King High sophomore mapped out a plan, prepared a budget, and raised more than $300 for supplies to repipe the outdoor plumbing system at the Dorothy Thomas Center, a special education school in Carrollwood. Tyler’s ultimate objective, which he recently achieved with help of some fellow Scouts from Troop 120, was to install five outdoor automatic-flow drinking vessels so thirsty pooches won’t find empty water bowls. Nor will school staff be responsible for refilling their water buckets throughout the day. One of the requirements in earning his Eagle Scout badge was that he obtain media coverage for the project.The dogs are “students” in the school’s Kids and Canine program. They are paired with at-risk middle school youngsters who in turn train them as puppies to assist people with disabilities and children with autism. It’s the only service dog program in the country integrated with a public school program, the Hillsborough County School District. The teens are selected by their teachers, counselors, therapists and parents, and for the students to stay in the program they need good attendance, behavior and academic performance. Kids and Canines Director Jennifer Wise said youngsters must apply for the program, and its popularity creates a waiting list. “It’s been quite successful and it’s a life saver for many of them,” she said. Mary Maas, the program’s assistant director, said she was extremely impressed with the depth of Tyler’s project. “I’ve never had a group come in and do everything exactly as we want it, but Tyler was easy to work with and he took control of it,” Maas said. “It’s a dream come true because our dogs will now be hydrated all the time.” In Troop 120 Scout Master Jay Duff’s view watering dogs isn’t necessarily significant in itself but when their purpose is to serve in the lives of others, it becomes important. “I think Tyler is one of our most dedicated Scouts and he’s very conscientious,” he said. Tyler got the idea from his aunt, Bonnie Elozory, who fosters Moli, one of dogs being trained at the center during school hours. She is amazed at what the students have taught the 2-year-old female Labrador who is nearing her graduation from the program. She can pick up most anything on the floor including objects like coins and credit cards, she can open the refrigerator, turn wall-mounted light switches off and on, and even answer the phone and take it to her owner. “It’s a phenomenal program that will benefit the dogs’ eventual owners in a big way and does wonders for the at-risk kids,” she said. “One kid said he had never been kissed before. But now he gets oodles of kisses from the dog he’s training.” Elozory also is impressed with what her nephew has accomplished through careful planning and due diligence. “I’m very proud of him,” she said. “He’s always been such a sweet, sweet kid.” The boy’s parents, Todd and Sandi Anderson, echoed similar sentiments. “Tyler made a commitment when he joined Scouts and followed through all the way to Eagle,” his mother said. “He set a very high goal and reached it and that says a lot about his character.” His dad agreed, noting that through scouting, Tyler learned about leadership, responsibility and how to interact well with others, including adults. “Getting his Eagle is something that will be with him his entire life,” Todd Anderson said.
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at JoyceCMcKenzie@gmail.com.