OCTA Operations Instructor Scott Watt shared this snapshot of Service Animal Training, a happy biannual event that help these special animals and their trainers become familiar with public transportation.
On Saturday, October 7, the bright sunny morning in front of the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARTIC) was soon filled with more than 150 trainer-and-service animal teams from all over Southern California. Many groups proudly wore their team’s shirt, with service animals in training wearing colorful, patch-covered vests that displayed their organization’s logo. The OCTA Service Animal Training patch is their badge of honor for completing the event.
Organizations included Guide Dogs of America, National Association of Guide Dog Users, Braille Institute, Orange County Regional Center, Therapy Dogs International, Go Team Therapy-Crisis-Airport-Service Dogs, Guide Dogs for the Blind, and many more.
Soon after checking in and a little “elbow rubbing and tail wagging” among organizations, participants enjoyed a meet-and-greet session with an O.C. Sheriff K-9 unit. Then, trainers and their service animals were taken on a special OC bus training route, which ran every 20 minutes.
For most service animals, negotiating the step from curb to bus, walking on the wheelchair ramp, and learning to lay down under the seat, was a new experience. In addition, the 60-foot articulated bus took some by surprise as it “bent” in the middle while turning.
As animals and trainers listened, coach operators spent extra time describing the different ADA features of the bus, and how to board, ride, and get off safely. The journey of sights, smells, and sounds on a public transit bus really had noses sniffing and ears raised as they traveled from the ARTIC to the Disneyland Resort® area, with stopovers at Downtown Disney District® and the Anaheim Garden Walk®. For many service animals, this was their first experience riding a public transit bus, navigating through a large transportation terminal, and being surrounded by amusement park crowds.
Back at ARTIC, some went inside to practice using stairs, escalators, elevators, and automatic sliding glass doors, while others practiced riding the lift on OCTA’s ACCESS bus and boarding a taxi. Others practiced riding a Metrolink train.
For more than 20 years, this event has demonstrated OCTA’s commitment to our customers with disabilities and offers a valuable opportunity for teams to come together and network, recruit, and share resources. Overall, it was a doggone good day!