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While waiting outside the Greater Cincinnati Memorial Day Dog Show barn, I saw the Golden Retrievers and Saint Bernese Mountain Dogs make their way to the show ring. Their coats were perfectly combed and they walked in knowing that they were the center of attention, but I knew it had taken a lot of work by their handlers to make them that way.

I noticed a tall, beautiful young woman with fair skin and a smidgeon of freckles on her nose and cheeks. Her hair was pulled back in a bun and she was holding a Saint Bernese Mountain Dog puppy.

“What a cute puppy!” I said.

“You can pet him if you want,” she said, smiling. “His name is Klondike.”

I gave him a good petting as she held him and he wiggled around and licked my wrist. “How old are you, Klondike?” I asked him.

“He’s just four months old,” she said.

I watched as some of his relatives made their way to the show ring.

“So you’re a handler?” I asked her.

“Yes, this is my life and I love it,” she said with confidence. “I travel to shows every weekend. I’m from Indiana.” Another handler, a woman with long gray stringy hair parted in the middle walked up to Klondike and gave him a kiss. They both laughed and played with him and then the woman said she had to go get Gracie and she’d be back.

“When I was a little girl,” the handler from Indiana continued, “I didn’t play with dolls; I played with stuffed animals and put dog leashes on all of them. I guess that pointed to my future as a dog handler.” She paused. “I love what I do and wouldn’t want to do anything else. “

I admired her. Sometimes you meet someone who is so at home with who they are, that wherever they are they are home. I had wondered about this sub-culture of dog handlers, groomers, breeders and vendors as I had walked through rows and rows of RV’s set up with tables outside and dogs playing behind miniature octagonal-shaped fences. As I walked by people sitting in small groups at tables with little shade, I remember thinking, you’d have to love this life to do this, because you travel every weekend. There is always the element of adventure and that in itself could keep you on an adrenaline high.

“Do you have family that are dog handlers?” I thought that she was going to say yes and point to an aunt or uncle.

“No, no one in my family, just me.”

“That’s wonderful, that you learned the business with out anyone close to guide you. That you followed the path you were meant to follow.”

“Yes,” she said, and we would have gone on talking, but just then another handler waved to her to come help her.

“Nice meeting you,” she said. “Enjoy the show.”

“I will,” I said, happy to have met a handler for the first time. I don’t think I could have met a lovelier one.