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Hartsville Girl Scout’s Gold Award Project is Saving Lives

See the WMBF News Story about Ashley's Gold Award here 

We all know that if we want more leaders, we need more Girl Scouts. The Girl Scout Leadership Experience teaches girls to lead with the courage, confidence, and character that makes the world a better place, and the Girl Scout Gold Award is the absolute pinnacle of our one-of-a-kind leadership program for girls. Did you know that girls who earn the Gold Award are required to invest a minimum of 80 hours into their project, as well as formulating a project that has an element of sustainability to have a lasting impact even after their project is complete? 

Ashley Boone is a senior at Hartsville High School, but rather than spending her free time as the average teenager does, Ashley has spent more than 140 hours creating a training program for shelter dogs to help them get adopted and remain successfully placed with their adopted family. During the research period of her project, Ashley discovered that almost 3.2 million animals are adopted each year but 1.6 million dogs are surrendered back to the animal shelter, and over 2.7 million dogs are euthanized because so many are surrendered and brought back, mostly because of behavior issues. In 2018, Darlington County Humane Society adopted out 360 dogs, but had 93 of those dogs surrendered back to the shelter. 

When deciding what to focus her Gold Award project on, Ashely didn’t have to search too far. See, Ashley has been volunteering her time with local animal shelters for the past 7 years. So, when she had the opportunity to pursue her Gold Award and create the change she wanted to see in the shelter, and in the lives of the animals that reside within its walls, the answer seemed clear.

“I have volunteered at Darlington County Humane Society (DCHS) Animal Shelter for 7 years now. Over these 7 years, I have seen dogs brought back to the shelter because of people not knowing what to do about behavior issues. I have also seen great dogs passed up by being labeled too wild…. My project “Canine Shelter Stars” is an action plan to help solve this issue. My goal with this project is for dogs to learn a basic foundation to set the dogs on a positive path that new adopters can build on to help them not be returned to the shelter.” - Ashley Boone, Gold Award Girl Scout, 17

More than just training a handful of dogs to get adopted, which still would have been a commendable feat, Ashley set out to create a sustainable training program for local shelters that can be replicated long after her Gold Award is complete. To do this, like a true G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, and Leader), Ashley first had to become a skilled dog trainer herself so she could teach others, create resources for trainers and new dog parents, and expand the program to have a lasting impact. To do this, she sought out the mentorship of a dog show trainer and learned how to teach dogs basic commands, evaluate the dogs’ needs, and how to work with rescue animals who may have suffered abuse in the past. Once Ashley had tested her knowledge on her own dogs, she quickly built a team of other trainers and volunteers, raised funds for supplies, and created a library of training videos and an online group to share the training resources with other trainers and shelters. 

As of December 1, 2019, Ashley and her team of Canine Shelter Stars have trained almost 30 dogs and have seen those dogs be successfully adopted by families who will go home with the tools to continue their training. One of these dogs happens to be a pit bull named Tabor. Up until Tabor came to the animal shelter, he had experienced very little human contact, living his life chained, and in solitude. Ashley saw the good in him, and began working with him from day one. Tabor’s lucky break came when someone who saw the training video Ashley posted online featuring Tabor, and how much he had learned. His new owner now can’t imagine life without him and has chosen to continue his training at home.  

“Canine Shelter Stars has helped me to see that I can do anything I set my mind to. It just takes a little hard work and passion for a cause. I am thankful to say with the help of my team, DCHS, approved fosters, and our rescue partner that my Girl Scout Gold Award Project has changed so many lives in the short time that we have started it.” - Ashley Boone, Gold Award Girl Scout, 17