Spring-Ford seventh grader Berkeley Thompson already has a job that she loves, even though she's just twelve years old.
Thompson competes regularly as a handler on the dog show circuit, and has won multiple awards and titles for both herself and the dogs she shows.
A handler is the person you see showing off dogs in the ring at a dog show. Handlers may or may not own the dogs they show, and many of them show multiple breeds. A handler needs to know all the details about every dog they handle, including how best to present the dog to a judge and how to get the dog to behave in the ring.
Thompson got started three years ago at age nine.
"We got a Lab, and we went to training," Thompson said.
The trainer was Sue Bani, a Limerick resident who runs All Good Dogs. Bani herself has been handling and training dogs for most of her life.
Bani says she knew Thompson was special when she first came to training classes
"She had determination," Bani says. "I saw her work with her Lab and she just soaked up the knowledge."
Bani began teaching Thompson how to handle dogs and then asked her to handle one of Bani's Doberman Pinschers.
Thompson won with that dog over several adult handlers, including Bani herself.
"Berkley is competitive," says her mother Susan Thompson. "This takes discipline, and she's learning that you can win or you can lose."
Thompson is currently ranked the number one junior Vizsla handler, and has won three other best junior handler titles.
Thompson prefers competing in breed rings, even though that means going up against adult handlers.
"I want to do this as a career and competing in breed rings is what gets you noticed," Thompson said. "Then other owners see you and hire you."
Thompson handled her own dog, a Vizsla named Paisley, as well as a Leonberger named Dutch and several other dogs, over the show weekend.
She had great success with Paisley, who finished a Grand Championship - the highest rank a dog can earn in conformation.
Thompson plans to continue handling dogs as she gets older. She plans to keep training Paisley in other competitive disciplines, but she knows exactly what she wants to do as a job in addition to professional handling.
"I want to be a vet," Thompson said.