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    Dog Scouts of America in Arkansas

    11:26 PM, Nov 21, 2012   |    comments
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    Photo Gallery: Dog Scouts of America
    (Photo: Dog Scouts of America)

    PEA RIDGE, Ark. (KTHV) -- Everybody has heard of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. But what about Dog Scouts of America?

    It exists. In fact, Arkansas has two Dog Scout troops: Fort Smith (Troop 191) and Pea Ridge (Troop 150).

    The canines even earn merit badges through a number of skills including agility, obedience and even community involvement.

    Dog Scouts of America came into being in 1995.

    Sharon Gruetzmacher brought the Dog Scouts to Arkansas. She is the founder and scoutmaster of Troop 150.

    "I just fell in love with it. We've got about 12 members right now. So it's slowly growing as the word gets out," Gruetzmacher said.

    She discovered the national organization by browsing online. It was all about her gentle canine, Duncan.

    "He was kind of the reason why I found dog scouts. The focus is on the dog, and the relationship between you and your dog," Gruetzmacher said.

    Dogs work to earn merit badges.

    "I think we're up to 72 different badges now," said Gruetzmacher.

    Among those Duncan has earned the obstacle, tricks, dog care and maintenance, scent discrimination where he looked for marijuana, and then search and rescue to name a few.

    Lonnie Beeman brought Samson, a certified therapy dog, to the Dog Scout program about a year ago.

    "And Samson being a German Shepherd is in need of mental stimulation and exercise," Beeman said.

    And when it comes to hiking, Sharon Branyan said her canine Maddy, along with the rest of the troop, is carrying backpacks with items for themselves, and their owners.

    "They have a flashlight, first aid kit, matches, I.D., compass, knife and some type of signaling device -- if you go hiking in the woods and you get lost, they recommend you carrying for survival reasons," Branyan said.

    People have come from as far as Oklahoma to Pea Ridge to enroll their canines in Troop 150 of the Dog Scouts of America. But they said it is well worth the trip.

    "It's teaching you to do little steps at a time as well as introducing the dog to something he's never done before," Gruetzmacher said. 

    Skills that are even applied to painting.

    "You teach them to use their paw and be able to put their paw on a piece of paper," explains Gruetzmacher.

    The talents of these dogs are limitless, from playing the banjo to the piano.

    Cathy Alford said her Romeo is still a cadet working to become a scout. It's a process that involves ignoring food on the ground.

    "We'll have to do a leave it with food. He'll have to do a sit and a down, and stay, which, his word is wait," Alford said.

    But by the end of the day, before THV left Northwest Arkansas, Romeo made the grade and became a Dog Scout.

    The organization was founded by a woman recovering from an accident.

    Her canine companion helped bring her out of depression and she created the organization to highlight that bond between people and canines.

    Twitter: @BuhrmanM

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