Obstructionists with a Cause

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After a combined 15 years on the Seattle Police Department’s Canine Unit, Debbie Martinson and her husband Bob know a thing or two about man’s best friend.

So when Mrs. Martinson, who spends three days a week volunteering with the dogs at the Benewah County Humane Society, noticed that the dogs were just zoning out on their walks, she got an idea.

“I wanted to try to get their minds going,” she said. “They go for walks, but it doesn’t connect their minds.”

Mrs. Martinson reached back into her law enforcement career to dream up a fun, challenging way for Benewah County’s adoptable canines to get more engaged in problem-solving and helping out their masters.

Kristian Hindman and Michael Lounsbury construct a table as part of a dog obstacle course during carpentry class Jan. 17. St. Maries High School students and teachers, along with volunteers at the Benewah County Humane Society, are working together to build the obstacle course.

Kristian Hindman and Michael Lounsbury construct a table as part of a dog obstacle course during carpentry class Jan. 17. St. Maries High School students and teachers, along with volunteers at the Benewah County Humane Society, are working together to build the obstacle course.

Dog obstacle courses, said Mrs. Martinson, teach coordination, obedience, and make dogs more adoptable. She and her husband discussed the idea with St. Maries High School teacher Jerry Machado, who eagerly embraced the project.

Mr. Machado said more than a dozen St. Maries students are taking part in building the obstacles, which include a tire jump, a teeter-totter, an elevated walk with stairs and ramp, a tunnel, and a table.

The Martinsons bought the materials, and Mr. Machado is using the project as a way for his students to get the satisfaction of seeing their work put to good use.

“It’s fun and exciting,” said Kristian Hindman. “People will help the dogs get through the obstacles,” said Michael Lounsbury. The boys are two of Mr. Machado’s carpentry students.

“I want to thank the public for bringing us projects,” said Mr. Machado. “They give the students a sense of accomplishment.”

Mr. Machado is grateful to the Martinsons, as well as Potlatch, Stimson, NAPA Auto Parts, and Kiwanis for their donations to the agricultural mechanics and carpentry classes that Mr. Machado and fellow teacher Bill Lawson oversee.

The obstacle course will be located on property behind Hopes’s Haven Animal Shelter that Jack Buell has agreed to let the humane society use, said Mrs. Martinson. Mrs. Martinson said she expects the obstacle course to be in place later this winter.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” she said.

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