For the Girl Scouts in La Jolla-based Troop 3869, service work has always been about nature.
When the Troop — comprised of girls who attend Muirlands Middle School — sought to complete their Bronze Award project in elementary school, they focused on butterflies. They planted milkweed to provide a breeding ground for monarch caterpillars to become butterflies.
This year, when it came to completing their Silver Award project, the Scouts decided to help dogs.
They’ve spent the last several months making dog toys from recycled T-shirts and tennis balls they found in the bushes surrounding local courts, and sold the toys at the La Jolla Art & Wine Festival. Proceeds were given to Operation Greyhound. Between sales and donations, the girls raised $700 the weekend of Oct. 12-13.
To earn the Silver Award, Girl Scouts must dedicate 50 hours to researching and executing a project that raises awareness for a cause. A report on the project will be filed with the local Girl Scout Council.
“We knew we wanted our work to be about animals; most of us have pets, mostly dogs, and we just love them,” said Scout Samantha Gans. “So we called and e-mailed a ton of places to learn about what they do. We decided on Operation Greyhound because the people were super nice and we saw what they do and it was really cool.”
The girls visited Operation Greyhound’s four-acre site in El Cajon, where rescue dogs are housed, and assisted owners Bob and Bruna Palmatier with some dog-grooming while learning more about the mission.
“We learned about how Operation Greyhound rescues dogs from racetracks, where they are often put down if they don’t race well,” Samantha said. “We wanted to help because these are good people doing great things for animals. It felt great to help these animals.”
Samantha’s mother and Troop Leader Audrey Gans told the Light: “Though these Scouts are very social, they’re still self-conscious at this age, but they felt so good about themselves and their project and they were confident talking to strangers at the Festival. They had to make eye contact, answer questions and explain what they were doing. They did a great job representing the charity. That was a huge part of what they got out of it. They have been in a Troop together since kindergarten at Bird Rock Elementary. I’m so proud they’re sticking to it.”
The project benefits were just as great for Operation Greyhound. Owner Bob Palmatier said: “I want to cry when I think about what these girls did. When I see young kids like that doing something like this, it’s admirable and awesome. It lifts your heart knowing there are good people in these troubled times.”
For 27 years, Operation Greyhound has been rescuing dogs slated for execution. Palmatier argues the dogs are put down in less humane ways than euthanasia in some cases. “If they are not winning,” he said, “they are taken out of the racetrack kennels and replaced with ones from training farms. They are housed in kennels, muzzled, for most of the day, and they would eat Grade D meat, like roadkill.”
Once rescued, Operation Greyhound takes the dogs, draws their blood and tests it for tick-borne diseases, spays and neuters, and microchips them. From there, staff seek foster or permanent homes for the dogs. “We’ve rescued over 3,500 greyhounds and adopted them out in Southern California since we started,” Palmatier said.
However, a challenge for the Palmatiers has been getting the word out about their efforts. They currently have a presence at the Ark Antiques shop on Girard Avenue once a week, and “show-and-tells” at local pet adoption events.
With the Girl Scouts focusing their project on the organization and talking it up at the Art & Wine Festival, Operation Greyhound got a big boost. “These Scouts are now our advocates and messengers,” Palmatier said. “That is what we needed.”