LOS ANGELES –Today, Metrolink hosted a dozen puppies from Guide Dogs of America | Tender Loving Canines on a training exercise to prepare them to accompany their future partners as working guide dogs and service dogs along public transportation.
The puppies are all being trained by Guide Dogs of America | Tender Loving Canines, a Sylmar-based organization that has been training dogs for visually impaired persons for more than 70 years. In 2020, Guide Dogs of America expanded its mission to provide service dogs for veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and mobility limitations, along with children on the autism spectrum.
Metrolink supports and accommodates trained service dogs and service dogs in-training on all trains to assist passengers with disabilities.
“As a fully inclusive passenger railroad that is open to service animals, Metrolink is proud to help GDA | TLC to bring puppies onto our system for this training experience,” said Metrolink CEO Darren Kettle. “Many of these dogs will have a human partner soon and this training is essential to keeping both the dog and the person safe throughout a journey.”
The day began at the Metrolink Sylmar/San Fernando Station where the puppies and their handlers boarded a Metrolink Antelope Valley Line train to Los Angeles Union Station. While on board, the puppies practiced sitting calmly at their handlers’ feet, out of the way of fellow passengers. At Union Station, the puppies explored the historic train hub while practicing basic obedience skills amid the hustle and bustle, followed by a short rest before their return trip to the Sylmar/San Fernando station.
Kettle, along with Los Angeles City Council member and Metrolink Board member Paul Krekorian, accompanied the puppies and their handlers to Union Station.
GDA | TLC is presently experiencing a shortage of puppy raisers and urgently needs volunteers to raise current litters heading into homes throughout December and into January.
“Puppy raisers are the cornerstone of the organization,” said Stephanie Colman, GDA | TLC’s puppy program coordinator. “We literally can’t create life-changing guide dogs and service dogs without them. Every successful working team begins with a dedicated volunteer who welcomes an 8-week-old puppy and helps that dog learn basic obedience, house manners, and how to be calm and confident in all types of situations – like on a Metrolink train.”
In addition to providing trained dogs for persons who are blind/visually impaired, service dogs for veterans and children with autism, GDA | TLC places task-trained facility dogs with professionals in hospitals, schools and courtrooms. The highly skilled canines become trusted companions that increase people’s confidence, mobility and independence.
Video of Event can be accessed here.
About Metrolink (metrolinktrains.com)
Metrolink is southern California's regional passenger rail service providing reliable, safe, affordable and environmentally sustainable transportation that connects people, communities and businesses to greater opportunity. The Agency’s 538 miles of track and 62 stations across Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties serve as an essential link in the region’s mobility network, enabling people to connect to their jobs and explore all that the region has to offer. Prior to the pandemic, Metrolink had nearly 12 million annual boardings from people who choose to ride the train to avoid gridlock, removing an estimated 9.3 million vehicles from the roads and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 130,000 metric tons each year with its fleet of Tier 4 locomotives.
About Guide Dogs of America | Tender Loving Canines (www.guidedogsofamerica.org)
Guide Dogs of America | Tender Loving Canines breeds, raises and trains highly skilled guide dogs for people who are blind/visually impaired, service dogs for veterans, and service dogs for children on the autism spectrum. The organization also trains facility dogs, which support a variety of in-need populations. All program dogs begin in the homes of volunteer puppy raisers who raise the dogs for 12 to 14 months. Guide dog candidates are later trained in Sylmar, Calif., by the organization’s professional trainers. Service dog candidates are trained in three California prisons through GDA | TLC’s rehabilitative prison training program. Guide dogs and service dogs are provided to clients throughout the United States and Canada free-of-charge. GDA | TLC graduates about 60 working teams per year. As the demand for service dog surges, the organization is on track to graduate 80 working teams annually in the coming years.