Public transportation can sometimes be tricky to navigate for anyone, but not for these guide dogs being trained in Whitewater that will be used to make traveling by city bus easier for those with visual impairments.
Sharon Williams has had a guide dog by her side since 1986.
“Her name is Julie and we’ve been working together for a week and we’re becoming a team," Williams said.
Her new pal Julie will be her eyes when taking public transportation four times a week.
“It’s made me independent," she said. "It gives me the freedom that I don’t have with a cane in my opinion. I can get from point A to point B faster with a guide dog,” she shared with News Channel 3.
Sharon and Julie are quick pros but these 20 guide puppies in-training were a little more timid while taking their first ride.
“With Guide Dogs of the Desert, we’re doing travel training and in this instance, we are teaching people who are visually impaired how to ride the bus some people haven’t ridden on public transportation before,” Nicholas Robles, Marketing Manager of Sunline Transit Agency said.
Previously, guide dogs would have to travel to Orange County to get this training but because of Sunline Transit Agency, they’re able to have train days in Whitewater.
“We’re so excited to have Sunline here to have a bus that is not in service so they don’t have to worry about having the pressure of getting on and off," Ben Schirmer, Executive Director of Guide Dogs of the Desert said. "They can practice doing this and it’s great practice for the dogs,” he added.
Ruth Carey is one of the puppy raisers. She’s been raising guide dogs for 22 years.
“They are so much fun to train and work with and then the end result is giving the puppy back to the school who trains it to get with a blind person and it gives them dignity and substantially improves their life,” Carey said.
With Julie's help, Sharon has confidence she’ll never miss a bus.
“Sometimes the buses would pass you by because they didn’t see your cane, even if you were two or three inches from the bus stop or a foot or two from the bus stop and with the dog once you’ve targeted that bus stop pole and they know where it’s at then bingo you’ve got it!” she said.
If you are interested in being a puppy raiser or just want to learn more about Guide Dogs of the Desert visit their website: https://www.guidedogsofthedesert.org/