GENEVA – The dogs like chew toys made of recycled denim, they run through a sprinkler/dog wash and work on other puzzle toys to get treats – all in the name of doggie enrichment.
Kane County Animal Control Administrator Brett Youngsteadt said the items were the work of Frances M., an eighth grader at Geneva Middle School South for her Silver Award project as a Cadette Girl Scout in Geneva Troop 1384. The Girl Scout Silver Award is the highest award a Cadette can achieve by showing leadership, organization and dedication to improving the community.
The Kane County Chronicle agreed not to publish Frances’s last name at the family’s request.
“We do a lot of work in the cat room and we were looking into ideas for dog enrichment,” Youngsteadt said. “Frances adopted a cat here and asked how she could help. … We had a blast working with her. She’s going to get her Silver Award and we could not be prouder of the work she did. She really went above and beyond what we could have done.”
Frances, 13, who adopted a tortoiseshell cat there named Truffle in March just before the COVID-19 pandemic, said she looked online for ideas to create the enrichment items for dogs at animal control.
“I wanted to help them,” Frances said. “They are a bit lesser-known adoption center and clinic in the district. I found things online and adapted them for dog enrichment items.”
Aside from getting recycled denim to make dog chews, Frances also got PVC pipe to create the doggie shower/sprinkler, the treat tubes and a bottle puzzle stand.
“I had to make some changes (as) other things would work better,” Frances said.
She used her grandpa’s miter saw to cut the PVC into the right shapes, his drill to make holes for the dog wash and treat tube toys. She also sanded the edges that were cut and drilled so they would be smooth and not cause any dog injuries.
“I spent about 50 hours on the project. It took about three months – I started in June and finished in September,” Frances said.
The project cost about $85, covered with $50 in materials donated from Lowe’s in St. Charles and the balance from cookie sales proceeds and her parents.
In all, Frances created 32 denim fabric dog toys that will give dogs physical and mental stimulation. She used worn out clothes and leftover scraps were recycled at the Kane County Recycling Center in Batavia.
She made the PVC wash station by connecting the tubes to create an open box shape that squirts water through the holes she drilled.
Youngsteadt said the shelter has a pool for the dogs to go into, but they really loved the doggie sprinkler.
“This was an amazing idea,” Youngsteadt said. “The puppies loved it. They ran through it.… It is really helping with their enrichment.”
She made seven PVC treat tubes with holes drilled in them for dogs to be stimulated to get the treats out, and with removable caps so they can be cleaned.
Frances also made a puzzle stand out of PVC tubes that where three clear plastic bottles hold doggie treats. The dogs figure out how to spin the bottles so a treat will drop out, further providing mental stimulation for them while they are at the shelter, awaiting adoption.
Youngsteadt said the dogs used their noses and paws to rotate the bottles to make the treats fall out.
Animal Control’s website, www.kanecountypets.com, now includes a section called Silver Award where Frances’s creations are featured, along with instructions on how to make all the items.
Two dogs pictured on the website are working on the treat puzzle bottles, both pit bull mixes that are not up for adoption – yet, he said.
“These were two amazing dogs,” Youngsteadt said. “We always hope they go together, but it’s great if they go to two great homes.”
Frances’s project is making a real difference for the dogs in his care, he said.
“Our goal is to enrich these animals so they’re not sitting in a cage all day,” Youngsteadt said. “Enrichment is so important. We can’t thank her enough.”