Van Horn High students create shady pergolas for senior dogs at Shep’s Place

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- When most workers finally retire, they focus on what they really enjoy. It's the same for pups that have moved into Shep's Place in Independence.

They're enjoying the "lounging life," thanks to some handy teens at Van Horn High School.

In Mr. Oatman's woods class he said most students expected to build a napkin holder or birdhouse this year, but he thought they could build a little bigger.

"At first I didn't know what that was, and he kind of explained it to us," sophomore Treyvion Paige said. "I was thinking a dog house, but it isn't a dog house. It's like a shed. Kinda like a shed type of thing with four entryways. I was kind of stunned at first, but I was ready to do it."

They designed and built three pergolas for Shep's Place, the senior dog sanctuary across town. Pergolas are similar to a gazebo, except these are dog-sized, and are open on four sides with a roof for shade.

Construction teacher Jim Oatman said the kids were really excited to build them for the dogs.

"Kids absolutely love it," Oatman said. "What I've noticed about these kids at Van Horn is if they have the option of working on a project for themselves, or working on a project that benefits the community, they're going to do the project that benefits the community."

The students got funding through Chick-fil-A's impact project. It took three classes of kids 11 days to build them. Each pergola cost about $265 to create.

Oatman said the skills the students learned from making the pergolas taught them how to build a deck in the future. Paige said he can't wait to see the dogs react to their new lounging spots.

"It's gonna feel good," Paige said. "We're going to see their reaction, and the first couple dogs step onto it and it's going to feel really good that they have somewhere to go when it's hot outside or it's raining outside, and they've got somewhere to go."

On Friday, the teens delivered all three pergolas to the retired pups even though they had to carry each one through 6 inches of mud because of the rain.

"I'm so impressed with that, that they got into this project so much," Shep's Place founder Russell Clothier said. "To give back to their community. I know that us old people care about dogs a lot, but to see the young generation feeling the same love and passion for these dogs. The willingness to put their time in to make this comfortable pergola for them is extraordinary."

Because all good dogs deserve a place in the shade.

"It feels good. We put a lot of hard work the other three or four guys that did it," Paige said. "Now we get to see where it needs to be and who it's for, and it feels good."

Shep's Place provides a home for senior dogs who haven't found families. It just opened a few weeks ago and has already become a forever home to four senior dogs.

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