The dogs at Castaic Animal Care Center now have a new enclosure to play in thanks to an Eagle Scout service project completed by Saugus High School junior Zach Fineberg.
“It was amazing to see because the original area was just a patch of dead dirt so to watch the stages of the transformation … and to see it literally be built from the ground up over a span of 48 hours was amazing,” Fineberg said. “It was very fulfilling and amazing to see the project exist right in front in me.”
With the new enclosure, the Castaic Animal Care Center will now be able to host the “Dogs Playing for Life” program which uses play groups to help socialize, evaluate and change the lives of shelter dogs, especially pit bulls.
“They thought it was fantastic. They were so thankful to finally have an enclosure large enough to do this program,” Fineberg said. “They now have that space where they can get lots of animals in there at once… It’s a safe place for them to interact with new owners and to expel that energy.”
Ten months ago, the 16-year-old began working with Animal Shelter Manager Karen Stepp for 10 months to design the large enclosure in a bare spot on the animal care center’s grounds.
“When I first came to them I just asked to see whoever was in charge and they put me in touch with Karen and since our first meeting she walked me around the shelter and showed me areas of the shelter in need,” Fineberg said. “She showed me this 30 by 40 patch of dead grass and I thought there was a lot of potential for me to do some good for the shelter.”
Stepp shared her desire to create an enclosure in the space and Fineberg went to work right away, designing an enclosure that utilized the space in its entirety.
“I saw Zach’s talent in the sketch he freehandedly drew on the spot when I said we need a play yard for our upcoming Dogs Playing for Life program,” Stepp said. “I had a huge area that was blighted and would be perfect.”
Months later Fineberg returned to the space to take exact measurements, lay down stakes, find ways to work around the site’s fire hydrant and tree and create a final 3D design.
“I used 3D design software… that I had learned to use through my school’s 3D engineering program,” Fineberg said. “I was able to break down the project into different parts, get some great visuals and print a 40-inch version of the project out.”
During the planning stages, he also sought donations from community benefactors, fundraised across the country and gained approvals from his Boy Scout Troop and the city council’s office.
“I spent a lot of months getting the approvals, finalizing our plans,” Fineberg said. “Then I broke down everything I needed to buy in the shopping list, broke down the tools I would need and went to some adults in my troop and talked to them about the best ways to approach the work.”
Fineberg decided to spread the work out across two weekends, spending the first grading the site and removing four inches of top soil with a small group of volunteers.
Then, last weekend, Fineberg and his team of nearly 40 volunteers added decomposed granite and fake turf, put up fencing with double-entrance gates, designed and built a shade pergola and added seating.
Fineberg also donated more than 150 handmade rope pull toys made out of donated T-shirts for the dogs to play with in the enclosure.
“I am so proud of Zach and his team,” Stepp said. “To have met and collaborated with such a talented young man was an honor.”
When the long weekend was over and the work was complete, Fineberg was able to play fetch and tug-of-war with one of the care center’s dogs inside of the finished enclosure.
“That was really amazing. They brought out one of the dogs in the shelter who is particularly energetic,” he said. “It made the whole project worth it for me.”
In addition to making an impact on the dogs at Castaic Animal Care Center, the project also made a difference for Fineberg as he gained new, practical life skills.
“It helped me personally grow so much and I’m very thankful for the whole process and how smoothly it went,” he said.
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