They’ve got badges and campouts, cookie drives and troops in 22 states.
But we’re not talking about Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts. No, these are the Dog Scouts of America, a half-human, half-hound organization whose goal is to do good deeds.
One of the first badges that Jasper, a 3-year-old collie-Lab mix, earned was in disaster preparedness. After all, he lives with Robert and Misti Verdahl near San Francisco, California, where you have to be ready for earthquakes and other natural disasters.
Jasper and his humans belong to Troop 198 and have earned 18 badges altogether. Each, the humans said, has made him a better dog.
“We go outside and I know he’s going to be safe,” Robert Verdahl said. “If there’s an emergency, I know he will listen to me.”
There are 682 Dog Scouts who belong to 38 troops across the country, including troops in Maryland, Virginia and the District. The organization has around 80 badges, but not all dogs can earn all badges, said DSA President Chris Puls of Brookville, Indiana.
For example, to get the jumping badge, a dog must be able to jump twice his height. Tall or heavy dogs aren’t really suited to that. “If it’s not safe, we don’t want you trying for it,” Puls said.
Dogs are not required to earn badges beyond the first one, for basic obedience. It is appropriately called the Dog Scout badge.
The organization was founded by Lonnie Olson 13 years ago. Kozette, Olson’s boxer mix nicknamed “Kozi,” is a model Scout, with about 45 badges.
Community service is part of any good Scout program, Olson said. The DSA members make about $10,000 a year for the Salvation Army and participate in several Christmas projects. Most troops also work with local groups to do whatever is needed in their home towns.
Verdahl joined DSA because he had taught Jasper everything he knew and the dog wanted more. Jasper could put laundry in the washer and (plastic) dishes in the dishwasher. He could stack bowls, open blinds, flip a light switch and open a door, Verdahl said. There is no housekeeping badge, but Verdahl figures Jasper can qualify for about 50 badges.
The Scouts have two mottos. For humans: “Our dogs’ lives are much shorter than our own. We should help them enjoy their time with us as much as we can.” For dogs: “Let us learn new things that we may become more helpful.”
Both serve as inspiration for the group’s grossest badge: “Clean Up America.”
It consists of picking up piles left behind by other dogs on trails, parks and beaches.