Madeleine Drake-Metzger from Wilton, Iowa, has achieved the Gold Award, the highest award a Girl Scout can earn, for addressing mental health needs in her community and training a therapy dog.
“By helping to train and certify a dog for therapy, there are now 30-50 children and adults a week that will benefit from having a support animal with them during difficult times in our community,” says the Gold Award Girl Scout.
Madeleine began her project working with a Buddy, a Mastiff with a sweet temperament. She and Buddy worked closely together with the goal of training him and developing a guide for future foster families looking to train a rescue dog to be a therapy dog.
“About five months into fostering and training Buddy to be a therapy dog, the rescue decided to euthanize him due to medical issues. After spending some time dreading having to finish this project without him, I decided I was going to do this for him, whatever that takes,” says Madeleine.
After taking some time to process the loss of Buddy, Madeleine decided to begin training her mom’s three-year-old Saint Bernard, Isa, who has a great temperament to be a therapy dog. Isa is carrying on Buddy’s legacy and also helps in the community, spending at least two days a week in different classrooms at local schools.
“I learned how to persevere even when navigating the grieving process. I learned that I am much stronger than I think I am and not to doubt myself,” says Madeleine. “I also learned that it is okay to take care of yourself. I took a break for my mental health, and that was really beneficial.”
Through achieving the Gold Award, Madeleine is inspiring schools and other community centers to train and support therapy animals. She was selected as the 2023 recipient of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western for her perseverance and growth while working to achieve the status of Gold Award Girl Scout.
The Gold Award is the highest achievement a Girl Scout can earn, available to girls in high school who create sustainable change on a community or world issue. Gold Award Girl Scouts address the root cause of a problem, plan and implement innovative solutions to drive change, and lead a team of people to success. As they take action to transform their world, Gold Award Girl Scouts gain tangible skills and prove they are the leaders our community and the world need.