JACKSON – A Girl Scout collected money – and raised awareness – about safety equipment dogs need when working with the fire department.
The dogs that work with firefighters these days aren’t the Dalmatian mascots you sometimes see riding on the truck. Instead, these are like police K-9 units, trained to detect certain chemicals.
Take Sammy, for example. Sammy is a yellow lab-golden retriever mix who can determine if a fire was intentionally set.
“Meeting Sammy and learning about what an arson dog does was very interesting,” said Shannon Calsetta, who is a freshman at Jackson Memorial High School. “I learned a lot from talking to John (Pasola, Ocean County Deputy Fire Marshal) and by watching Sammy during a presentation given by John. For instance, I didn’t know there were 27 different accelerants that could start a fire.”
She learned a lot about arson dogs, and she shared that knowledge with her peers. She even shared it with complete strangers, going business to business soliciting funds. She raised enough money to buy 39 oxygen masks, which have been distributed to volunteer fire companies across the county.
The fundraising was done as part of her Girl Scout Silver Award, a community service project that older girls do. The gist of it is that the project has to be self-sustaining after it is created.
Calsetta created a patch program that will be hosted by Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore and the Howell Police for years to come.
“I learned from this project that I can make a change,” she said. “People may not think that canines may need something like this but they do and it’s important to care for them as they complete the very difficult work that they do.”
Calsetta also hosted an educational presentation to over 60 girls and adults. She included K-9 units from 11 different towns to help demonstrate activities, equipment and why K-9s are important for sustainability.
“A lot of towns don’t have canine units or arson dogs,” she said. “I am hopeful that by raising awareness about the important role each of them has in our communities, more will become available.”
She said she wants to pursue law enforcement in the future.
Ocean County Commissioner John P. Kelly, Director of Law and Public Safety, and Commissioner Director Gary Quinn thanked her for her efforts.
“I want to extend my appreciation and that of my colleagues on the Ocean County Board of Commissioners to Shannon as she took her Silver Award project even further and added this donation of life saving equipment for arson dogs to all the other work she has done to raise community awareness about the importance of canine units in our law enforcement agencies,” Kelly said.
Sammy and his handler, Pasola, became a nationally certified Accelerant Detection Team in 2016. They train constantly and get recertified annually.
“Earning the Girl Scout Silver Award is truly a remarkable achievement. Shannon Calsetta’s extraordinary dedication, perseverance, and leadership is making the world a better place,” said Heather Colburn, Interim CEO of the Girls Scouts of the Jersey Shore.