Beasley is one lucky Cairn terrier. Rescued last year by the Scandale family, he enjoys all the comforts his caring adopted family can provide. Unfortunately, that is not the case with every dog. When Libby Scandale walked Beasley on bitterly cold nights last winter, she often wondered about dogs chained outside without the benefit of a warm place to escape from the cold.
“Wild animals are able to find burrows and other natural shelters from much of winter’s worst, but a chained dog is completely at the mercy of what humans do or do not provide,” Scandale said. “I vowed not to let another winter arrive without doing as much as possible for animals who are chained 24-7-365 with no choice in their environment.”
Scandale is an art teacher at Ragsdale High School in Jamestown, N.C. Her simple desire to help neglected dogs has turned into a major project involving teachers, students and the community. Participants in Project B.A.R.K. (Bringing Animals Relief and Kindness) are building special doghouses to donate wherever there is a need.
“We believe that as we show compassion, care and responsibility toward animals, those actions translate and extend to compassion and care for people as well,” Scandale said. “Since the project was made public, we have heard from quite a number of Guilford County staff at various schools and at the county office who want to help.”
Ragsdale teachers Sam Bays and Julie Herchock are on the project’s planning committee and several teachers have offered Project B.A.R.K. as a service project. Ragsdale civics teacher Christie Murphy has taken the project one step farther by having her students conduct the business details with a real-world approach. About 20 students have shown a sustained interest and willingness to work on the project. Zack Reck, a junior, has even made it an official service-learning opportunity through Guilford County School’s Character Education Department. To receive academic rewards for a project, students must research an issue, include statistics of its impact, forecast future needs and long-term solutions and serve a specified number of hours working on it.
Project B.A.R.K. has the support of Ragsdale principal Dr. Kathy Rogers, former Ragsdale athletic director Mike Raybon, Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes, Marilyn Green of United Animal Coalition and the Triad SPCA. Bob Slone is serving as the project’s construction expert. “Bob is a long time Guilford County animal advocate and “builder extraordinaire,” Scandale said. “He has donated hundreds of hours in actual construction of the shelters.” After careful research to determine the warmest and most cost effective building material, the group elected to use plastic barrels stabilized on wooden cradles for the doghouses. “We are building as many as we can, as quickly as we can and plan to continue as long as we find a need,” Scandale said. “Ideally, we would love to work ourselves out of a job, but until that time, we want this to be an ongoing project.”
In addition to constructing the shelters, volunteers want to make the community aware of their project so people can help identify dogs who would be at risk of freezing or suffering damaging frostbite or other severe physical hardships. “We already know of dogs in need and neighbors near them who are interested as well,” Scandale said. “We are distributing flyers door to door, posting them in veterinary offices, pet supply stores and other public places.”
The group working on the project is using donated materials as much as possible and would welcome materials and other input in the program. People also can “sponsor” a doghouse, complete with insulating straw or cedar chips, for only $20.
“Because volunteers are doing the work, 100 percent of all donations go directly to purchase materials for the structure and
installation,” Scandale said.