Michael V. Martina / The Herald
Jessica Walker, 17, a student at Cascade High School, is taking veterinary science classes at Sno Isle Skill Center. She says she hopes to get a degree in animal science and would like to be a dog handler. She is raising her 4-month-old dog Gabriel to be a show dog.
Going to the dogs: Got into animals through 4-H, of which she’s now club president. “It clicked.” Has four dogs at home, including Gabriel, a 4-month-old tri-belton (multicolored) English setter that she is training for show. Bought him from a breeder she works for on Whidbey Island for $1,500. Took four months to pay off.
New tricks: Training the puppy in obedience skills, such as walking on a leash at the same pace as her and sitting down when she stops, as well as showmanship skills, like walking at a certain speed and posing for the judges. “He’s really fun.”
Doggone good: An American Kennel Club novice competitor the past three years. Showed Gabriel at a junior showmanship competition in Portland, Ore., this past weekend. It was her third win, meaning she can now compete in the open class, the next step up from novice.
Pre-vet student: In her second year in Sno-Isle Skills Center’s pre-veterinary program. Though a one-year program, she was accepted again to continue pursuing career options. “It’s a fun program.” Balances with independent studies at home through Cascade High School.
Maybe not: Wanted to be a veterinarian, but first year at Sno-Isle led her to switch dreams. “There’s a lot of schooling,” (nine years beyond high school) “and I don’t like school. So it saved me a lot of money.”
Get thee a husbandry: Thinking now about being a professional dog handler and getting a degree in animal husbandry. May attend Pierce Community College’s veterinary technology program next year.
Puppy dog eyes: School leases cats and dogs from a kennel, which then offers them for adoption. Jessica adopted Max, a lab mix, after convincing mom. “The thought of him having to live with someone else just broke my heart. He’s my baby.”
Hen-pecked: Along with four dogs, family has three chickens. “They beat up on Gabriel all the time. They’d wait for him … and then jump him and bite him.”
Found her path: Sno-Isle gave her motivation. “I’ve never been big on going to school. I didn’t like sitting in a classroom.” Once at Sno-Isle, only had three absences – for a dog show. “It gave me the courage to set my own education path.”
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