A few weeks ago, I was surprised when my dad told me that my dog, Trooper, was in the local newspaper. I said, “Trooper? Why in the world is he in the paper?” But when I saw the picture, I was delighted to see that it was a photograph from an Eagle Scout ceremony for Ben Whittington, a scout who has been helping me with Trooper’s training for many years. Ben posed with Trooper for a few photos after the ceremony.
I met Ben in 2006 when he was in junior high. I had asked the members of the local Boy Scout Troop 44 to help me out with my dog’s training. I am a search-and-rescue (SAR) K9 handler. Trooper, my dog, must find people when we train; the training simulates scenarios that we could encounter during a real search. Over the years I have been fortunate to have many people lay a trail or two for us, including many of the Scouts in Troop 44. But there are only a handful of volunteers who have offered themselves as regular “victims,” over the years. One of those is “Boy Scout Ben.”
He has helped me and my SAR colleagues on many occasions. Ben has laid trails in the heat, the rain, snow and all conditions in between – because people get lost in all kinds of weather and places (woods, fields, city parks, etc). We handlers have put him in charge of other Scouts during joint trainings when several different units get together to train. He has volunteered to help man SAR teams’ booths at public events.
What impressed me about Ben early on was his willingness to help and his ability to learn and apply that to our needs. I remember asking him once shortly after he started working with us what time he would like to lay a trail one weekend. He said, “How about 6:30?” That was 6:30 a.m. I said, “Six-thirty?” He said, “Won’t the dew hold the scent better?” Indeed it would. He had watched and learned ‘” and not too many kids I know voluntarily get up at the crack of dawn on a weekend. In fact, he spent part of New Year’s Day this year sitting in the woods waiting for air-scent dog teams from the Scott County (Mo.) SAR K9 Unit to find him.
I have watched Ben grow into a fine young man, one who embodies all the qualities of a Scout. He is a high-achiever in school ‘” he even played the leading man in the school musical production of “Aida.” He is active in his church. For his Eagle Scout project, Ben built owl nesting boxes for a conservation area and coordinated their installation.
Ben will begin college next fall. He’s still laying trails for us. Trooper and I were out looking for Ben last week at 0600 so we could get a jump on the heat of the day and use the dew that holds the scent so well.
I can think of no one more deserving of Eagle Scout status than Ben Whittington. I guess now we’ll have to give him a new nickname – Eagle Scout Ben!