Good Dog Scout

Leesa Hovius’s gold award projects aims to help local dogs in the area.

Leesa Hovius poses for a picture after her interview with The Sun.

Leesa Hovius has been a Girl Scout for as long as she could remember. Joining the Scouts in kindergarten at age 5, Hovius joined because “that’s just what all the kids did,” according to her mother, Robin.

But Hovius, who is a Tabernacle resident but member of Winslow Township Girl Scout Troop 30689, really took to the Girl Scouts, making a point to get as involved as she possible can.

“It’s been a big portion of my life,” Hovius said. “This is my 13th year as a Girl Scout.”

At only 17 years old, Hovius is quite the outdoorswoman.

“i love camping so much,” she said, elated to talk about one of her favorite subjects. She has a special penchant for starting campfires. Any tips?

“You have to start with a small tinder, which is, like, basically the size of your pinky and just make a small pile,” she explained. “Then get a fire started with your fire starter, light it, and then slowly build up with kindling.”

But what sets Hovius apart from other Scouts is her Gold Award project, which she’s almost finished. Just some more paperwork and it’ll all be done; she’s in the homestretch.

The idea is to create a “portable dog agility course” for foster dog families looking to provide dogs with a home.

“The idea is that the foster families can take home pieces [of the course] and the dogs can train on them,” Hovius said. “When they go to adoption events, the dogs can show off their skills and hopefully make them more attractive to potential adopters.”

She got help from her dad, Kelly, to make the obstacles on the course. There’s a hoop jump, a movable jump, two seesaws for big and small dogs, weaving poles for dogs to zig zag through, and a ramp platform “that goes up and then across and then down,” Hovius said. Also, there’s a resting table where dogs “have to jump up and then sit for five seconds and then jump off.”

To make the obstacles, Hovius learned how to use a tablesaw, sanders and drills.

Hovius already has a few videos up on her project’s Facebook page of the dogs experimenting with the course. The Facebook page is called “L’s Gold Award Project.”

But that’s not all that’s impressive about Hovius. For instance, Hovius, who is homeschooled, spends much of her extra time earning credits for her associate’s degree in music at Rowan College at Burlington County. She already has 32 credits accumulated.

And remember, she’s only 17.

Hovius plays the piano and is a big fan of classical music. She’s especially fond of Mozart and Bach.

Hovius says she doesn’t quite yet know what she wants to do with her life.

“I’m just going to get my degree and go where life takes me,” she said.

However, one of her short-term goals is to become certified in everything you can be certified for in Girl Scouts. Currently, she has certifications in archery, lifeguarding and canoeing.

“The only things left are ziplining and rock wall,” she said. She’s especially fond of ziplining.

“It’s almost like flying but sitting,” she said.

Hovius’s younger sister, Kendall, 14, is working on her Silver Award and hopes to complete her Gold Award one day as well. Does Hovius have any advice for her younger sister?

“I started mine in 10th grade and here I am going into 12th grade just finishing it up,” she said. “Definitely start early.”