As promised, I, Guide Dog Spencer McGarrett, am back to tell you about my experience riding the train in Canada. I wanted to show you a picture from Canada, but, alas, Sandra doesn’t take many pictures of me. I don’t know why not, since I am amazingly handsome. But, to her, I guess I’m just part of the furniture.
I did find this picture taken in an English garden a couple years ago. Here you see me at work guiding the Handsome Bloke around the garden feature. Without my constant attention, he would have stubbed his toe at the very least. You also get to see my harness and how well we work together. What a team we are!!!
I promised a story about my first train ride. Let’s begin with a picture of the Rocky Mountaineer Train that runs from Banff to Vancouver. Last week I told you about the plane that took us to Toronto. Then we took a regular train to Jasper National Park, drove by car down to Banff, and finally boarded the train to Vancouver: the VIA Rocky Mountaineer.
I draw your attention to the distance from the rail to the actual level of the car. You may never have thought of this before. I certainly hadn’t. And this was my first train. Since then I’ve ridden on BritRail a lot, and it’s much easier, because we always use the station platform. That means I just have to get up and down the steps.
The problem was that between Banff and Vancouver the train only makes one official stop – at Kamloops. That’s a long time for me to keep my puppy legs crossed. The Handsome Bloke had a long conversation with the conductor. The train does make other stops during the night to take on fresh food and stuff. So, the conductor said he would knock on the door when we were coming to a stop area, and Sandra could take me out.
Okey-Dokey. So, it’s zero-dark-thirty and Sandra puts my lead on, takes me to the exit, and believe me, I never did anything like this at training school. It was a long way down. The first two steps were connected to the car, and then they put down this plastic step stool that looked pretty dicey. I wasn’t too happy, and there’s Sandra in back of me like she thinks I’m going down. ‘Cuz there wasn’t space to turn around.
Well, it looked easier than getting on and off that plane. And, I was still young and spry then – not even two years old. Plus, I needed to find some grass, pronto. I took a deep breath, took the first steps and jumped the plastic one. Whew! And Sandra said I was a good boy. Duh!
So then, she walked me back and forth until I found the perfect spot. I had more of an audience than I prefer. I was their first distinctive canine passenger. And then we got back on the train. That was much easier than getting off, because I could get a running start.
The Handsome Bloke was so proud of me. After demonstrating my heroic traveling abilities, he knew we were the best team ever.
So, next time you see an official Seeing Eye Guide Dog, remember how very special we are, guiding our handler through every obstacle and making super canine efforts to go wherever our person leads.
For information on Canada Rail Vacations, check out http://canadarail.ca/packages/rockies-escapade
Sandra Wagner-Wright is the author of Two Coins: A Biographical Novel and Rama's Labyrinth. Both books are available in digital and print editions at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and Kobo. Rama’s Labyrinth and Two Coins are available as audiobooks.
Sandra blogs weekly about topics related to her travels, writing life, and the incongruities of life in general.