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Scout spearheads WFPD project

Officer Pete Nielsen (left) watches his dog, Disco, jump through an obstacle constructed by Boy Scout Brandon Duenow, a junior at West Fargo High School. Tyler Shoberg / West Fargo Pioneer1 / 2
Tyler Shoberg / West Fargo Pioneer2 / 2

When Troop 225 Boy Scout Brandon Duenow decided to tackle the West Fargo Police Department's project earlier this summer, he didn't really realize just how much work it would be.

But after weeks of construction and wrangling roughly 25 family members, friends and neighbors, the 16-year-old could calculate exactly how long: 341.5 hours.

The end result for all that sweat and toil was a complete set of dog training obstacles for the WFPD's lone K-9 unit; a critical weapon in the department's fight against crime.

"He did a great job," Officer Pete Nielsen said, who is one half of the aforementioned duo.

Duenow spearheaded an effort to plan, build and transport an entire dog training agility course as his Eagle Scout project. If all goes well, the incoming West Fargo High School junior will have done enough to reach that lofty goal.

The completed project consists of a myriad of agility obstacles, including large boxes for hiding people, an A-frame, a broad jump obstacle, several fences, and much more.

On a recent, sunny day, Officer Nielsen's dog, Disco, a long-haired German shepherd, demonstrated how his new training course was supposed to be navigated.

The fluffy, jet-black dog proceeded to leap over, dive through, climb up, and jump across everything on the premises, per Nielsen's careful instruction.

While it all makes for a pretty neat show, there is another reason for Disco's prowess. Every year, Officer Nielsen and his loyal partner must complete and pass national certification with the United States Police Canine Association.

And in early June in St. Paul, they did just that.

Now with 11 months to prepare for their annual renewal and in between their normal routine of patrolling the city, the WFPD K-9 unit has the equipment they need to stay in top form.

Duenow said he first caught wind of the project from friend Nathan Reitan, son of WFPD Assistant Chief Mike Reitan. There was a need to build a training course, he'd said, and it would make for a great Eagle Scout project.

Duenow got to work May 5 by purchasing supplies: the project was completed May 30.

Admittedly not one to bark orders, Duenow, who has been active in scouts since the second grade, said going through the process was "interesting."

"The hardest part was just keeping everyone busy," he said. "I had to really manage so everyone had something to do once they'd finished a step."

Duenow learned a lot along the way. Officer Nielsen gave him basic instructions on what he wanted built, and Duenow had to take it from there. Although the WFPD funded the nearly $2,000 project, Duenow had to come up with everything else.

It was a growing process; one that Duenow thinks was worthwhile.

"I learned that leadership takes a different skill set," he said. "(Scouts) teaches a lot of skills, like quality and character issues, that I wouldn't have learned elsewhere. It builds on good values.

"And it's fun, too."

Duenow lives in Fargo with a younger brother and sister, and parents Brian and Melinda. They were a huge support net through the more than two weeks of building, he said. And his grandparents were a big help, too.

Plus, the end result is a sight to behold.

"If you don't look too close, it looks pretty professional," Duenow said, with a laugh.