While other kids her age whiled away the summer at camp or hanging out at the swimming pool, 11-year-old Madison Caputo was busy running her own business.
A lifelong animal lover, the FishHawk Ranch resident is the founder of Maddy's Critter Care and Dedicated Dog-Walking Service, a business she began two years ago when a neighbor in Bridgewater asked her to watch her dogs while she was away.
"Dogs are my life," said Caputo. "I love them so much and they love me. So, of course, I said 'yes.'"
She said she would have willingly taken care of her neighbor's dogs for free. However, when her neighbor insisted she be paid, it occurred to the young entrepreneur that she could earn extra money by taking care of neighbors' dogs when they went out of town.
That neighbor, Kathy Hammock, said she had no qualms about leaving her dogs, Roxie and Molly, in Caputo's care.
"I don't worry at all," Hammock said. "I know she loves them and they're in good hands. And she's so conscientious. She'd be over at my house even when she didn't have to."
Once Caputo realized she could turn her love of dogs into a business, she wrote a business plan, came up with a mission statement, had business cards printed and marketed her business by distributing fliers throughout her neighborhood.
She didn't have any trouble finding clients.
"This neighborhood really loves its animals," said her mother, Debbie. Currently, Caputo has 12 canine clients.
Because all of her clients live in her neighborhood, Caputo is able to bicycle or walk to their homes where she feeds, walks and plays with her charges on a daily basis.
Caputo provides all clients with a form to fill out specifying what food the dog likes, favorite toys and games, personality traits as well as emergency information.
"She actually has a preconference with each client," said Debbie Caputo who accompanies her daughter on that first visit to ensure there are no issues her daughter can't handle.
Debbie Caputo said she's been amazed by the commitment and responsibility her daughter has shown.
"This summer, she set a goal to raise $800 for an iphone 4s and a year's worth of service on a family plan, and she's just $30 from her goal," said Debbie Caputo. "We're very proud of her."
Madison Caputo said she plans to continue her dog care service as she enters sixth grade at Randall Middle School this week.
"It's so wonderful that I can earn money doing something I love to do," said Caputo. "I'd like to continue doing this right through high school."