Boy Scout helps police dogs stay fit with agility course

By Sarah Melton

The Mount Holly Police Department always had to train their police dogs in Gastonia, but now, they have an agility course of their own, thanks to a local Boy Scout.

Boy Scout Troop 59 member Nate Flowers, a junior at the Highland School of Technology, recently installed the agility course behind Mount Holly’s Water Treatment Plant as his Eagle Scout service project. Flowers will receive his Eagle Scout award after the paperwork is approved by the national office of the Boy Scouts of America.

For years, the Mount Holly Police Department had been using the Gastonia Police Department’s agility course at the Gastonia Municipal Airport to train its two police dogs. Sgt. Brian Reagan said it was the only equipment the department did not have locally for the officers and dogs to use.

“We train two times a month for eight hours a day,” he said. “It did take a little bit of time to drive over (to Gastonia) and run the course. We’d try to do other things, such as apprehension work or evidence search, while we were there.”

Flowers wanted his Eagle Scout project to be unusual and found out about the police department’s need after speaking to Scoutmaster Rick Connell. Flowers said the community would be safer if the police department had proper training equipment readily available and accessible.

“It is not economical for the K-9 officers to have to drive across the county to keep the dogs sharp and good at what they do,” said Flowers, son of Todd and Wanda Flowers. “If we can keep the K-9 department sharp, then I believe crime will show a decrease in Mount Holly and surrounding areas.”

Flowers started on the project in May 2010 by recruiting volunteers, sketching course designs and mailing letters to more than 70 businesses, friends and family asking for donations. He managed to raise the $800 needed for the project. Charlotte Paint Company donated paint and Quality RV Services donated tools and storage space.

The Mount Holly course was built to United States Police Canine Association standards and is an exact replica of the Gastonia course. The course features an A-frame obstacle, picket fence and chain-link hurdles, two barricade obstacles and a window obstacle. 

All of the equipment is painted white, except for one barricade hurdle, which is painted green, to help the dogs distinguish different colors. Also, the equipment has extra support enhancements so it will survive inclement weather and last longer.

More than a dozen volunteers helped Flowers assemble the course on two rainy work days this past April. Flowers, a Gastonia resident, spent 504 hours on the project.

“The main thing I learned is how much it really takes to organize a project of this depth,” he said. “I learned a lot of planning skills and how to work with people.”

Todd Flowers said the volunteers worked well together as a team.

“There were times where myself, Rick Connell and some of the other leaders would sit back and just take our hands off the project,” he said. “Part of this project is being able to manage and figure out speed bumps. The Scouts would say, ‘It isn’t working this way so let’s see how it would work another way.’ It amazed me.”

Reagan said he is thankful for all of Nate Flowers’ hard work and hopes other police departments will be able to use the course to train their four-legged partners.

“The department is overwhelmed at the quality of work and Nate’s dedication to the project,” he said. “I know there are a lot of people he could have done the project for, and we feel fortunate he chose us.”  q

Boy Scout Troop 59 member Nate Flowers constructs a new canine agility course for the Mount Holly Police Department. The service project helped the Highland School of Technology junior earn his Eagle Scout Award.(photo by Sarah Melton)

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