If you were ever a brownie or Cub Scout, or perhaps a Girl Scout, you know how much fun it can be. Imagine if someone did the same for dogs and created Dog Scouts or Pup Scouts, where dogs of all shapes, sizes, and ages are welcome to earn a variety of badges.
I recently wrote a story for Dogster magazine all about becoming a Dog Scout or a Pup Scout. The two groups are separate, with the latter being the one with which we decided to get involved. The farthest I've been title-wise with my dog, Dexter, is that of Canine Good Citizen, which is a fun and rewarding test we trained for on our own. So now I wanted to do something that would be rewarding, involved with community, have fun, and network with others who have the same passion for dogs. We decided to join the Pup Scouts! Imagine my delight in finding the Pupscouts of DPFamily, Troop 4, founded in April of 2011. I connected with the founder, Susan Godwin, to find out how they differ from Dog Scouts of America, and if my own dog could be a member.
“My dog, Tasha, has become quite a fashionista. While surfing online one night, I stumbled on the cutest uniform from Whimsy Collection and knew I had to have it for Tasha,” Godwin recalls. “It brought back memories of being a Brownie and a Girl Scout. I immediately thought it would be a great way to give back to our own dog community through fundraisers to help dogs in need.”
Seeing a group of dogs dressed in Pup Scout uniforms draws attention wherever the group gathers. Cuteness overload aside, do these canines clad in costume earn badges and pass any tests to get them? You bet your s'mores they do!
The dogs earn badges for things such as swimming, hiking, beach clean-up, arts and crafts, and more. At their monthly meetings, usually at a dog-friendly park in New York City, the group meets for socializing, planning, badge chatter, and to keep the pledge of the Pupscouts alive. And yes, there is a pledge. According to Godwin, it is:
On my honor, I will try to do my duty, to help the dog community and my country, to help make humans smile, and to be there to guard and protect, especially those at home.
So the very first badge we had to earn was a fun one called “Movie Night.” This is meant for you to go somewhere that a movie is being shown and watch it with your dog. The more community and socializing you can do with your dog, the better. So we found a drive-in movie theater about an hour from our home called Becky's Drive In located in Walnutport, Pennsylvania. There are a whole slew of badges we will earn, and you can even start your own troop: The founders of PupScouts are happy to help you with this so you can join and have fun. Or you can be a part of the online national group: The choice is yours.
Drive-In Back Story
When first developing the idea of a drive-in movie, or “drive-in,” as affectionately called by frequent patrons, Richard Milton Hollingshead, Jr. could not have imagined the iconic thumbprint he would embed on American pop culture. By 1957, 3700 drive-ins existed across the United States. Affordability coupled with concessions at the ‘snack bar,’ such as hot dogs, sno-cones, candy and soda set the mood for a fun night out with family, friends, and of course, dogs!
Cindy Deppe of Becky’s Drive-In told me about the fun they have at the drive-in. Her parents, William and Alice Beck, started the drive-in in 1946. “More and more patrons are bringing their dogs with them. When the entire family is there and the weather is nice, you just can’t beat it. Bring your blankets and chairs, and sit outside. Dogs can relax next to their owners instead of staying home alone,” she said and continued, “Hopefully, patrons will always want to attend the drive-in to relax and take in a double feature with the entire family.”
What We Did
And come they did: Dexter and I walked around, met a lot of other dogs and their parents, and we were able to talk about Pup Scouts, how dogs can socialize, and be good ambassadors for pet-friendly travel. We always clean up where we travel: After all, we want all dogs to be welcomed back. Leaving messes behind makes it bad for everyone. We had a good time as a family, away from all technology, a night under the stars, meeting lots of dogs and people, and learning the history of the drive-in movies. All in all, a badge earning, cocker tail wagging good time.
We highly recommend seeing if there are any drive-in movies near your town. Here's the link for finding them: Drive In Movie Finder
In any case, Dexter's doggie “wife” is visiting him in 2 weeks and the duo will be able to earn their Fire House Tour badge. We plan to write about fire safety for dogs and how pet parents need to include all pets in their fire escape and prevention plan. Stay tuned.
“Pupscouts Troop 4 is an international troop. We have members from all over the United States, Belgium, England, and Australia,” says Godwin. “Everyone outside of New York attends the meetings online via the DPFamily website and soon we will be Skyping our meetings. In order to earn a badge, dog parents post photos of their dogs earning that badge after meeting criteria.”
The Pup Scouts are growing and garnering media attention, as the recent feature on Nat Geo Wild's Spoiled Rotten Pets showcases Godwin and her honorable pack members. Small and big dogs are welcome to apply — one of the group's largest members is 100-plus pounds, and she wears the uniform with pride. For more about joining, visit PupScouts.org.
Here's our video experience of the drive-in: