Boy Scout builds agility course for dogs at Northville Township park

Hani Barghouthi
The Detroit News

A photo in the story has been updated to correct the last name of Michelle Abboud, who brought her dog, Parker, to the dog agility course July 30.

Northville Township — Dogs at Marv Gans Community Park now have a lot more  to keep them occupied and their owners have a 17-year-old Boy Scout to thank. 

A new agility course debuted Friday afternoon at the Northville Township park off Beck Road with hurdles, columns and tunnels to navigate. 

Maisie has fun running through the dog agility course with canine trainer Elly Price (left) and owner Marianne Webster at Marv Gans Community Park in Northville Township on Friday, July 30, 2021.

Jonathan Barringer dreamed up plans for the course two years ago after taking his dog Rebel to an agility course that was a 20-minute drive from his house. The visit sparked a vision to bring the option closer to home as part of a project to become an Eagle Scout, the highest possible rank in the Boy Scouts of America. 

“She really liked it, and I wanted to train her, but it was just too far to do consistently,” said Barringer, a University of Detroit Jesuit High School senior. “Then last year, when I was coming up with ideas for my Eagle Scout project, I thought this would make a great project for the community.” 

A sign signals at new dog agility course at Marv Gans Community Park in Northville Township on Friday, July 30, 2021.

Barringer set out to raise funds for the course, combining a GoFundMe page with a bottle recycling drive and soliciting donations from nearby dog businesses. All in all, they raised $7,000, he said. 

At the same time, Barringer said he was coordinating with Northville Township Parks and Recreation to follow the appropriate procedure to make sure his township’s dogs get the course.

KateMcCullough of Northville has fun with her dog Mika at the new dog agility course at Marv Gans Community Park in Northville Township on Friday, July 30, 2021.

The department’s recreation superintendent, David Lesmeister, attested to Barringer’s dedication. 

“He set the date and put in (the course) himself," he said. "He did it in the rain pretty much all weekend. He grinded through. It was pretty cool to see, that determination to get through, because it was not easy.” 

Lesmeister added that the township’s residents are “very serious” about the dog park, which has been around for 20 years. “They seem very excited about this new course," he said. 

Michelle Abboud, left, of Northville prepares her dog, Parker, to make it through the new agility course at Marv Gans Community Park in Northville Township on July 30.

Elly Price, a dog trainer Barringer asked to assist at the opening, said that agility training helps “building confidence in the dog and improve the relationship between the dog and the owner."

The dog owners who came to the event Friday agreed.

Cathryn Neracher, a resident who usually takes her five-year-old Goldendoodle, Chewie, to the town’s other dog park, said she'll be going to Marv Gans a lot more often. 

“It will be really good for Chewie," she said. "I think he remembers some of the agility training he did three years ago which he enjoyed a lot.”

Neracher said she managed to snag the last available slot out of 24 openings with Price when she saw an announcement on Facebook last week.

As for Barringer, who hopes to study aerospace engineering after high school, there are two short steps left to gain his coveted rank. 

“I have to write a couple of essays and get a couple of signatures, then I’ll be an Eagle Scout, which will be awesome," he said. "I've been in the Scouts since second grade, so a lot has been building up to this. It means a lot to me.”