But much of that began to change when she met a black lab named Gusto.
Her well-trained assistant is perfectly equipped to help make her senior year at Haverford High School a problem-free experience.
The two-year-old began training to become a full-service dog at Canine Partners for Life in Cochranville, when he was just 5 months old.
He and Bernadette had three weeks of intense training this summer.
Now, Bernadette says, "I can basically train him to do anything I want."
Gusto can carry Bernadette's books, even pay the cashier at lunchtime. But he's been taught not to bark at school, or interact with anyone other than Bernadette.
Unless, of course, she says it's O.K.
But once Gusto comes home, and his harness comes off, he's ready to play.
He never goes too far, always sure to be just a few feet away from the girl he was trained to assist and protect.
Bernadette says Gusto will also make college life next year an easier adjustment.
"It'll decrease the amount of time I'll need an aide or an assistant," Bernadette said. "It'll also give me more freedom around my dorm."
As for college, Bernadette is leaning toward Temple and looking forward to a new world of experiences for her and Gusto.
It cost about $22,000 to train each dog at Canine Partners for Life, but the future owners are asked only to pay $3,000 of that cost.
Bernadette raised that money herself.
You can visit the Canine Partner's for Life website by CLICKING HERE.
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