By Melanie Speicher Sidney Daily News
SIDNEY, Ohio — With a bark of doggy delight, Shelby County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Officer Colt ran his way around the newly-installed obstacle course located at the Sheriff’s Office.
The obstacle course was dedicated Wednesday morning, culminating an Eagle Scout project for Boy Scout Merrick Fox, 16, son of Shawn and Claudia Fox, of Sidney. Merrick is a member of Troop 301 and a junior at Anna High School.
“I have a passion for law enforcement and for animals,” said Merrick. “This was a perfect Eagle Scout project for me.”
But the project wasn’t Merrick’s alone.
“The employees at the Sheriff’s Office have been involved with three Eagle Scout projects,” said Chief Deputy Jim Frye. “This says a lot for the county. Shelby County is well represented in Eagle Scout projects.”
Frye said he received an email from “Merrick Merrick” about the obstacle course and that he’d like to talk about it as his Eagle Scout project.
“His vision and plan were pretty vague,” he said. “So he comes to meet with me. I had wondered who would name his son ‘Merrick Merrick’ and then I found out his father was Shawn (Fox).”
Shawn Fox is reserve deputy at the Sheriff’s Office.
Frye said he and Merrick discussed what obstacles should be used in the course and the dimensions of each obstacle.
“I reached out to my mentor and received the Department of Defense’s plans for K-9 obstacle courses,” said Frye, who was a K-9 handler and trainer when he was in the U.S. Marines.
With those plans in hand, the development of the obstacle course began.
“When I first met Merrick, he was meek and mild mannered,” said Frye. “Now he’s boisterous. He’s developed his leadership skills. He’s learned from the people who helped with the project.”
In addition to Frye, Deputies Frank Bleigh and Brian Strunk assisted with the project. Bleigh is K-9 Colt’s handler.
“Merrick had his Court of Honor Tuesday night so he’s officially an Eagle Scout,” said Frye. “So many people have played an important role in the project. The Southwest Training Group, which includes five counties, have their dogs here today.We also have a K-9 from the Wapakoneta Police Department here.
“The vision was not only to let our dogs use this, but other agencies as well,” said Frye. “The public can come in to teach their dogs the obstacle course. Our K-9s work in all types of conditions — dry and wet. You can’t predict the weather” when they are called to a scene.”
Frye said if a local resident would like to bring their dog to the obstacle course, they should call the dispatch office and let them know when they plan to be there.
Merrick first learned about during a Boy Scout meeting where possible Eagle Scout projects were discussed.
After deciding on the project, said his mom, Claudia, Merrick had to present the idea to the Boy Scouts of Miami Valley Council for their approval. After receiving their OK, Merrick began working with Frye and Bleigh, who helped him design the obstacle course.
“I picked out 10 obstacles that I liked,” said Merrick. “I showed them to Chief Deputy Frye and we picked out seven obstacles for the course.”
Merrick had one word of how he felt the first time he saw a dog run through the obstacle course: Awesome!
“It was definitely worth the work,” said Merrick.
One of the obstacles was modified from the military specs they used to design the course.
“We added a door to one so it was similar to a car door,” said Frye. “The dog has to be able to get out of a cruiser in an emergency.”
Today, the officers have a button to open the door, said Frye, but if they are unconscious, the dog would have to get out of the vehicle through the window.
“Merrick did a wonderful job,” said Bleigh. “The door is the hardest obstacle because the opening is small. When Colt sees it (obstacle course), he wants to go play.”
Colt, who has been with the department for 10 years, is already benefiting from having the obstacle course at the sheriff’s office.
“Frank will drive to work early so Colt can run the course,” said Frye. “Frank is training Colt every night.”
Gay Smith provided the financial backing for the project.
“I’m just a dog person,” said Smith. “Deputy Strunk and Merrick approached me about the project. When they said ‘dog’ and ‘training,’ I said ‘why yes and who is this young man.’”
James and Judy Beckelhymer and Len Larson also helped Merrick with his project.
“We provided him the space to work,” said the Beckelhymers. “We had the tools, guidance and encouragement.”
Larson helped with the design of the obstacles and “turned it into something that we could build.
“It came together very nicely,” said Larson, who does woodworking and construction as a hobby. “We built and assembled it at James and Judy’s house. Some of the work was done at my place.”
Larson said he and Merrick talked about the vision of the project before they started working on it.
“We worked together to get it into the form you see here,” said Larson.
The construction of the obstacle course was completed over a series of days with the assistance of members of Merrick’s troop and adult troop leaders. Merrick used what he learned in his shop class at Anna High School in the construction of his project.
Jackson Center Police Chief Chuck Wirick and his K-9 Officer Hiro were on hand for the dedication.
“This is a great asset to have here,” said Wirick. “It’s nice to have it in the county. It’s another tool we can use for training.”
With the completion of his Eagle Scout project, Merrick said he has already started encouraging other members of his troop to start working on their project.
“I’ve approached two or three Scouts who are close to 18 years of age,” said Merrick. “I’ve told them they need to get going on a project. It’s well worth it.”
Merrick is also working on his Eagle Palms, which is only available to Boy Scouts who have earned their Eagle Scout pin. He can earn bronze, silver and gold palms based on the number of merit badges he continues to earn.
“I’ve gained confidence in talking to people,” said Merrick when asked what the most important thing he learned from completing the project. “I’ve gained the leadership to go and do the project.”
Merrick also received assistance from Joseph Riddle, Chris Knasel-Chandler, Robert Geuy, Lowe’s Home Improvement and Jenny’s Design on the project.
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