Earlier this year Guide Dogs for the Blind, Concord, CA, took its puppies on its annual extracurricular training mission to The County Connection, for further training and practice on the intricacies of exiting transit buses, how to enter and exit using ramps and lifts.
As Guide Dogs for the Blind they will learn to assist their partner, board the bus and take a seat while ignoring any distractions from other passengers or vehicle sounds. County Connection community relations director Marie Knutson says the dogs and trainers are one her favorite groups that visit the transit agency.
Susan Oranje, co-leader of the Contra Costa County Puppy Raising Club, says all puppies must master the use of public transit before graduating to become full-fledged Seeing Eye dogs. Their guide for the day, Abel Herrera, revved the engine, honked the horn and used the air brakes to acquaint her subjects with the normal sounds of transit.
When County Connection mechanic Erik Miller led the group on a ride through the bus wash, the future guide dogs took it all in stride.
Qualified volunteer puppy raisers receive their charges when the pups are approximately eight weeks old. Raisers are responsible for teaching the puppies good house manners, basic obedience, and most importantly, socializing them to the world. At that point they get their first look at a transit bus.
County Connection operates a fleet of 29-, 35- and 40-ft fully accessible fixed-route buses, and a fleet of 63 paratransit vehicles, carrying more than five million passengers each year.
For more information visit the Canine Community Programs office at Guide Dogs for the Blind at www.guidedogs.com.