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Maryville Junior High School students build dog house for teaching assistant's rebuilt home

Maryville Junior High School students build dog house for teaching assistant's rebuilt home

Maryville Junior High School students build dog house for teaching assistant’s rebuilt home

The Daily Times

By: Amy Beth Miller



Tonight will be the first time Pam Bradley and her dogs, Jax and Ranger, all will be home since a fire destroyed their Maryville house March 6.

She moved into the rebuilt house Monday, Dec. 11, and Wednesday students from Maryville Junior High School, where she is a teaching assistant, delivered a doghouse they built. When school ends today and winter break begins, Bradley will pick up the dogs and bring them home.

The dogs were sleeping beside Bradley, who had been home sick, when the fire started. “I heard a large boom or explosion,” she said, then a sound like knocking on a door. When she looked into the carport the front end of a Ford Expedition was engulfed in flames, she said.

Maryville firefighters arrived within minutes, but the house had to be rebuilt from the foundation up. Damage to the Expedition was so extensive they aren’t sure what started the fire in the vehicle, which has been sitting for days, Bradley said, but one theory is that squirrels may have chewed the wiring. The explosion she heard wasn’t the gas tank but the tires, she said.

School support

The day of the fire people rallied to help, bringing clothes for her and leashes for her dogs. The junior high’s school resource officer notified then-principal Melissa Stowers, who showed up that day too.

MJHS construction teacher Jeremey Russell offered his assistance to Bradley after the fire, and that’s how his students came to build the doghouse. Bradley printed a photo from the internet of what she wanted, provided the supplies and had the concrete pad on which it sets poured.

The result is a 6-by-7-foot doghouse, including a porch, with insulation as good as Bradley’s rebuilt house. When she’s not home she leaves the dogs outside, a practice she adopted well before her own house fire, because a friend’s house had burned years ago, and she didn’t want to worry about her dogs being trapped inside during a fire.

“I wanted to make sure that the doghouse was substantial enough to take in winter,” Bradley explained. “The floors, the walls are insulated,” at the same level as the new home.

While Bradley stayed with a friend during her house construction, her dogs spent two weeks at Village Vet and then have been a Crikett Lane Kennels in Walland, where Bradley visited at least weekly. The dogs also received instruction from trainer Shane Hawkins of Troubled to Trained on not only obedience but socialization while at Crikett Lane. He brought Ranger and Jax for a visit Wednesday, when Russell and four of his students completed the doghouse on site.

The structure was so large it had to be taken out of the school in two sections, and that left less than an inch of clearance, according to Russell. In Bradley’s back yard Wednesday the teacher and four students attached the shingled roof and ridge cap.

“These kids have been a godsend,” said Bradley.

Design to done

The doghouse picture Bradley provided had the door in the center, and she asked that it be moved to one side. Russell said the first step was creating the plan with computer-aided design software Onshape, to get the measurements for the walls and floor system, and building began in late October.

Students in the Principles of Manufacturing and Construction class typically work on projects around the school, from shelves for the front office to a shoulder pad storage rack in the locker room. Through the class they can earn industry-recognized workplace safety certification through the National Center for Construction Education and Research.

The doghouse includes the basics used in framing a house, including the truss system for the roof, underlayment and shingles.

With only about an hour of class time and multiple things to accomplish, Russell said the toughest part was time. Some days they might complete only three rows of shingles, although Russell said students were eager to work on it outside of regular class time too. Roughly 40 ninth graders and a handful of eighth graders from Russell’s other classes had a hand in the doghouse project, he said.

The structure is so large that some students initially thought it was a child’s playhouse, and others wondered about the size of the dogs that would be using it, since the enclosed part is 6 feet by 4 feet, and the covered porch area 6 by 3.

Bradley knows the students well, not only from serving as a teaching assistant in an English class but also interacting with them in the cafeteria before school starts.

“It’s still a lot of faith to ask a 14-, 15-year-old boy to build something for you that, hopefully, will stand and last for many, many seasons,” Russell said. “I’m glad we were able to do it, and it should be here for a long, long time.”

“I trust these guys,” Bradley agreed. “I see them every day.”

Before the fire Jax and Ranger had a smaller plastic doghouse. “I always wanted to upgrade to a better doghouse,” Bradley said.

As she looked at the dogs exploring the new structure Wednesdsay, she said, “It’s a new beginning.”