Greenwich Animal Control is the beneficiary of a unique Eagle Scout project.
Gianluca Bianchi, a member of the GHS class of 2023 and member of Troop 35 out of Glenville, said that while many Scouts work in nature, clearing trails and building bridges, he wanted to incorporate his love of animals into his Eagle Scout project.
First, with the help of about 15 members of Troop 35 – Greenwich Police Chief Jim Heavey is the Scout Master – he designed durable PVC cat beds for the many kittens and cats who find their way to the care of Animal Control Officers Suzanne Carline and Stacy Rameor.
Second, Gianluca designed a large collapsible A-frame exercise ramp for dogs. Also, he devised an adjustable hanging hoop for dogs to leap through.
He was inspired to build the agility equipment by Adopt A Dog, where he and his family found their rescue dog Lucy, a Beagle-Boxer mix.
When the Bianchis started their search for a rescue dog, they had visited Animal Control, but the facility had few dogs. In fact, Officer Carlin said that during the pandemic, so many people were adopting dogs that for a time there were none available.
“Before we went to Adopt A Dog, we came here and they suggested we look at Adopt A Dog,” Gianluca recalled. “My parents were on the fence at the time, wondering who would wind up walking the dog.”
“Then, when Officer Carlin said they needed beds for the cats, I had the idea of making them,” he said.
Gianluca said it was very satisfying to see the dogs enjoying the agility equipment. “When I dropped off the tire jump, there were a couple dogs and one of them really liked it and jumped through it.”
Gianluca, who started participating in Scouting in first grade, said he was inspired by older boys who pursued the ultimate Scouting achievement, including his brother Owen, who is four years older.
In turn, members in his troop as young as sixth grade assisted with Gianluca’s project.
On Saturday, Gianluca worked with Angel, an adorable 8-year-old dog available for adoption at Animal Control. A little treat went a long way, and the little dog made his way up and down the blue A-frame and through the hoop.
Gianluca said he started planning his Eagle Scout project a year ago, and there were many steps and learning experiences along the way.
There was a detailed application process that required tracking down several signatures in person.
He researched how to construct the equipment and determine what would fit inside the modest fenced-in yard at the Animal Control facility.
Fundraising was also a challenge, though Gianluca said that once he explained the project, his neighbors, many with their own rescue dogs, all chipped in for a total of about $300. Materials were purchased at Home Depot, including wood pallets, which were disassembled and used to construct the agility equipment.
“The idea, including the fundraising, was for the project to benefit the entire community,” he explained. “It was a big learning experience that included everything from communication by phone and email to teaching the younger scouts and guiding them through what they should do.”
Communication was a particular challenge. Gianluca is in school during the day, and the Animal Control officers are frequently on the road responding to calls. Between emails and phone calls, Gianluca was able to connect with the officers and move forward.
And construction took place during the pandemic, with face masks and social distancing.
Then there was the challenge of involving 15 Scouts, ranging from 6th through 12th grade, in a meaningful and safe way.
Gianluca broke down the tasks so that troop members could each help with the construction in a safe way, a consideration since PVC pipe cutters, saws and power tools were involved. He created two stations – one for painting the plywood and one for cutting the wood.
“And we had to stop and wait for the paint to dry,” he said.
“We did it in my driveway and garage with the doors open,” he explained. “And it was cold.”
Overall, Gianluca estimated putting in 100 hours from start to finish.
Officer Carlin said Angel would be perfect for the right home and could potentially live in a home with another dog. He has some medical issues and will need some training, but he was sweet and affectionate with everyone me met.
Anyone interested in adopting should call Animal Control and make an appointment to meet him at the facility at 393 North Street. (203) 622-8299