In retrospect, this was an impractical career goal, and was quickly supplanted by more real-world aspirations, like becoming a secret agent.

I don’t know how much the particulars of one’s adolescent dreams really matter in the long run, but I know it helps an awful lot if one has a solid understanding of how to get from A to B.

I was gifted with parents who were each good role models, who took their studies seriously in school and took their careers seriously as adults. I was granted many opportunities to experience adult workplaces as a child, to learn what it actually meant to be a lawyer or a professor. Mostly, I was made to understand from the beginning, the importance of education to achieving one’s goals, whatever they might be. And I will always be grateful for that lesson.

So when I was cold-called by a woman named Amanda, explaining that she was looking for mentors for an apprenticeship program for underserved youth in Chicago, I was all ears. It turned out Amanda represents a newly minted outpost of SPARK, which began on the west coast. SPARK places students between the ages of 13 and 14 with professionals working in their chosen field. And it happened that one such student had it in her head that she would like to work with dogs.

Well, enough said. So beginning this Wednesday, See Spot Run will play host to a charming and enthusiastic young woman from nearby Dodge Renaissance Academy for a minimum of two hours per week for 8 weeks, during which time I will strive to demonstrate what it takes to work professionally with dogs. When I attended the SPARK orientation last week, I was excited to discover that she actually has a four-month-old puppy at home, which makes homework assignments a lot more viable.

We will also work together to prepare a final project for presentation at Dodge Academy in the fall. I’m thinking a short instructional video on raising a puppy, but we’ll see.