Nine young students graduated Friday from the Pals and Paws Day Camp held last week at the McCracken County Humane Society.
The camp was organized by 16-year-old St. Mary High School student Kyle Johnson for his Eagle Scout service project.
Johnson collaborated with Terry Vannerson, Humane Society executive director, to create a camp for students ages 12-15 that taught the basics of dog care and training.
Each camper was paired with a dog, ranging in age from puppies to 3 years.
"Our goal was to teach the students how to take care of dogs in a humane manner," said Vannerson. "They learned about dog behavior, grooming and clicker training techniques."
During the graduation ceremony, the students led their dogs through an obstacle course, showcasing their new tricks.
As a guest speaker during the ceremony, Paducah Mayor Gayle Kaler read an excerpt from "Stubby, the War Dog," as a part of the Mayor's Book Club for kids. Officer Shawn Craven of the Paducah Police Department spoke to the campers about the use of dogs in the K-9 department to track missing or hiding humans, find hidden articles and sniff out illegal drugs. He demonstrated some important K-9 skills with his police dog, Huub.
Awards were then distributed by Vannerson and Johnson to campers in categories such as Best Kennel Decorations, Most Improved Dog Training and Most Entertaining Camper.
The money raised from the camp will go to the Humane Society's Spay and Neuter Program to treat dogs before they are adopted.
Camper Meredith Petter, 13, said, "We learned a lot about dogs, including how to train them and take care of them properly. But most importantly, we learned that every dog is different and that every dog deserves love."
"This started off as my Eagle Scout project, but I don't know if it could have gone any better. It obviously turned into something more," said Johnson. "It's been a pleasure to work with the campers and the Humane Society."
Contact Katie Paxton, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8655.