Dog lives bettered by scout project

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Michael Buchler poses in front of the dog park he worked on for nearly two years at the Huron Humane Society. The park is meant to improve the quality of life for animals at the shelter and earn him the rank of Eagle Scout. The park offers people a safe place to learn more about animals they are considering adopting and an area where the dogs can play while they wait for their new home.

ALPENA — A bittersweet visit to the Huron Humane Society two years ago by Alpena’s Michael Buchler has led to making dogs’ lives at the shelter a little bit brighter and helped him achieve a personal goal in scouting.

After one of his two dogs died, Buchler, who was an aspiring Eagle Scout at the time, stopped at the shelter to adopt a new dog. His interaction with the dogs and puppies at the shelter motivated him to construct a playground for the animals as his project to become an Eagle Scout.

Today, his vision is a reality, as the Pawing Around Dog park is open.

Buchler , who is now 16 years old, said he was heartbroken when one of his pets died, and the same was true for his remaining dog. He said adopting another dog to be a companion to his dog at home was the primary reason he visited HHS. While there, he spent time with several animals to get to know them better, but said it was difficult to read their personalities and process the interactions in the small room designated for visits.

It was then, Buchler said, he decided to begin the process of having a dog park built behind the shelter.

“My other dog needed another friend, but while we were here, we were confined in the small room and we couldn’t get to know the puppy very well, so we just took her home,” Buchler said. “I decided I wanted to make a safe space where people could take the dogs you’re thinking about adopting and learn more about them.”

Buchler said the park is also a place where staff at the shelter can let the animals run and play in between adoption visits. Those experiences improve the quality of life for the animals until they find their forever home.

“It allows them to be dogs and not have to be in the cages as much,” he said.

The design process was done by Buchler and he planned and led fundraisers which raised the more than $7,000 needed to build the park and buy toys for it. He said a package featuring information about himself and the project was crafted and distributed to potential donors, many of whom were eager to help the animals at HHS and his effort to become an Eagle Scout.

Huron Humane Society President Cindy Johnson said it would likely have been many years before the shelter could have built a dog park on its own. She said that, between the new park and a second fenced-in yard, all of the dogs get more time outdoors and get the exercise they need. Johnson said she is proud of Buchler for the dedication and drive he displayed over the two-year project and sees great things in his future.

“He has done amazing things as a teen and I believe he will be an amazing adult,” she said. “I don’t think there is a hurdle that can be put in front of him that he can’t overcome.”

Buchler said he has been involved in scouting for about eight years and said it has helped him grow as a person. He said becoming a scout is something he would recommend to any youth considering it.

“It can be a lot of work and there are some boring meetings, but there are a lot of fun things, like camping, we do too,” he said. “Being in the scouts is also a good way to become more involved in the community and do things that can make it better.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or 989-358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.