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Newsome High student's pet dehydration project earns Girl Scout Gold Award

Newsome High School's Lauren Dyer, center, with parents Tom and Dawn, poses in front of the display for her Girl Scout Gold Award project, "Hydrating Our Pets." JOEY JOHNSTON | Special to the Times
Newsome High School's Lauren Dyer, center, with parents Tom and Dawn, poses in front of the display for her Girl Scout Gold Award project, "Hydrating Our Pets." JOEY JOHNSTON | Special to the Times
Published Jun. 15, 2018

OLDSMAR — When Lauren Dyer was in the first grade, her family's two golden retrievers hopped the normally secure backyard fence and went undetected for hours.

They were finally located. But one dog, Scrappy, had passed out from heat exhaustion. The other, Sunny, was also famished, but wouldn't leave its companion. The dogs were immediately placed in the family SUV and taken to an animal hospital, where intravenous fluids were administered.

"It made a big impression on me,'' said Dyer, a recent Newsome High School graduate. "I mean, man's best friend, right? To see our dogs in such a terrible state, it really shook me up and I began to realize this was a potential danger for a lot of dogs. I heard of some in similar situations that had died. It was always in my mind that something should be done to help.''

In the last year, Dyer put her concerns into action, allowing her to receive the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest achievement in Girl Scouting, which was presented Saturday (June 9) at the Nielsen Center.

Her project — "Hydrating Our Pets'' — helped her to work with a park ranger and spearhead the installation of a pet water fountain at Alderman's Ford Park, which also displayed an informative sign on pet dehydration and overheating.

Additionally, Dyer created a pamphlet on pet dehydration and overheating, which described its symptoms, prevention methods, risk factors and treatment options. It was given to local animal clinics and hospitals, while also being shared on social media.

"I was skeptical at first, but Lauren certainly filled a need and now I'd like to see them at all of our parks,'' said Bobby Roberts, the park ranger.

Dyer was among 35 Gold Award recipients from the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida, which comprises Citrus, Hillsborough, Hernando, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Marion and Sumter counties. It recognizes sustainable and measurable service projects, which focus on community issues and require at least 80 hours of planning and implementation.

The Gold Award, available to high school-age students, is conferred to fewer than 6 percent of Girl Scouts annually. Approximately one million Girl Scouts nationwide have earned the Gold Award since its 1916 inception.

"These young ladies have educated and inspired us all,'' said Jessica Muroff, chief executive officer of GSWCF. "They give us hope for the future of this nation. They are leaders. They identified issues and problems, then found ways to help solve them.''

Like most of the other projects, Dyer chose a subject that sparked her interest.

"Right after we had completed the fountain, just a few minutes later, two dogs came and were drinking,'' said Dyer, who will attend the University of South Florida's honors college. "That was the moment it really hit me. It was something that is going to help all the dogs. Seeing those two dogs drinking was such a great moment.''

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Dyer raised about $1,500 in donations for the fountain. But before then, she compiled meticulous research, which studied the issue and explored solutions.

"That's Lauren,'' said Dyer's father, Tom, a retired Navy intelligence officer. "The park has been so impressed with all the feedback. People have seen the fountain and sign and said, 'Who did this?' ''

Lauren Dyer, that's who.

"We're so proud of Lauren for taking this logical extension of her own experience and creating such a positive result,'' said Dyer's mother, Dawn, a history professor at Polk State College. "To have other parks looking to do the same thing, that shows this project created some change.

"When you think of Girl Scouts, you think of the little girls selling the cookies. Many of them drift into other activities. Lauren was very tenacious and stuck with it, even though she had to change troops a few times. I'd encourage others to keep their girls in scouting. When it gets rocky, stick with it. The end game can be very fulfilling and rewarding.''

Contact Joey Johnston at hillsnews@tampabay.com.