By Matthew Sockol
MILLSTONE – A young woman from Millstone Township has earned her Girl Scout Gold Award after creating a campaign to spread awareness to pet owners about the health and behavior of their animals.
Sophia Cerri, a senior at Allentown High School, created a responsible pet owner awareness campaign for her Gold Award project. The campaign included filming a video that can be viewed on YouTube and on Millstone’s municipal access cable television station and township website.
The video features interviews with pet behaviorist Sharon Gaboff of Adopt-A-Pet, veterinarian Mary Beth Morgan of Red Bank Veterinary Hospital, and Doreen Jakubcak, the owner of Marty’s Place Senior Dog Sanctuary.
“The goal of my project is to provide the pet owner with reliable, up-to-date information on the most common, burdensome or costly health issues afflicting dogs and cats, as well as the most common behavioral problems,” Sophia said. “It has been a lot of work with several ups and downs, but worth it in the end if I can help pet owners and their pets.”
According to Sophia, a pet’s serious health and behavioral issues could lead a pet owner to give up his dog or cat to a shelter and she said statistics show that nearly half the animals in shelters are euthanized. She said animals with significant health and behavioral issues are at the greatest risk of being euthanized.
The video also discusses the function of senior dog sanctuaries as an alternative to shelters and the rewards of adopting a senior dog.
Sophia, who has been a member of the Girl Scouts for 13 years, joined the organization while she was in kindergarten. She followed in the footsteps of her mother, who was also a Girl Scout, and said she was motivated to remain active by what she found the Girl Scouts to stand for, which she saw in the mottos “Make a Difference” and “Take Action.”
“I certainly had a lot of fun with my troop over the years, such as going on trips, crafting and camping,” Sophia said. “But as I became an older Girl Scout, it became more about community service and leadership. Our troop participated in a variety of community service projects, including Relay for Life, community cleanups, planting dune grass, serving at soup kitchens and making wigs for cancer patients to earn our Bronze Award.”
Knowing that she wanted her Gold Award project to involve pets, the young woman’s campaign was motivated by an illness her dog suffered.
According to Sophia, her dog has a history of epilepsy and became ill with an autoimmune type of anemia in 2016. Although he recovered, his medicines are expensive and one of his epilepsy medications has to be given every eight hours.
“It has been rather difficult for my family to manage (my dog’s) illness,” she said. “So I thought about doing a responsible pet owner awareness campaign in which the focus is on people who have pets that have a disease or a behavior issue that is difficult to manage or costly.”
Sophia created the video with the help of Millstone resident Jackie Hundertpfund, who filmed Sophia’s interviews and additional footage of dogs.
“The help (Hundertpfund) provided was invaluable,” Sophia said.
Sophia will receive her Girl Scout Gold Award at a ceremony on June 1.