Service dogs in training supported by GO Transit

Metrolinx policy helps promote accessibility on public transit

Carlin is the type of GO Transit rider that gets noticed. As he struts along the platform at Aldershot GO Station, just about every passenger waiting to board the Lakeshore West train seem to sense his swagger.

Even though it’s a casual Friday, Carlin still wears a form fitting vest that appears to hug his every curve. There is also something inviting about his brown eyes and people seem to be drawn in often stopping to chat.

You see, Carlin is an Autism Service Dog in training and, for him, riding the GO Train isn’t about getting to work. It is his work.

“The staff are amazing and they’re super receptive. They love having the dog onboard,” says Deanna Allain. The 18-year-old is a full time volunteer with Autism Dog Services and is providing training to Carlin, who will one day be paired with a family in need of his specialized skills.

“When Carlin becomes a service dog, it’s almost essential that he knows how to use public transit,” says Allain. “He might be placed with a family that might rely completely on transit, and might take the train everywhere.”

When Carlin’s 24-month-training is complete next year, he will be able to carry out a number of specialized tasks. One of those skills is called, “anchoring.” It’s a behaviour that prevents startled Autistic children from suddenly sprinting into potentially life-threatening situations.

Metrolinx is providing help by allowing trainers, such as Allain, and their canine companions, access to vehicles, platforms and properties. “Knowing that GO Transit champions that is really important to us,” says Allain. “It means that we’re able to get where we need to go and there’s not going to be a problem.”

Allain says a lot of her fellow Lake Shore West passengers are curious about Carlin, often noticing his vest and asking questions about the nature of his work: “We’re always happy to answer questions,” says Allain. “We also try to relieve any concerns if people do have them.”

Suzanna Muir is a fellow Lake Shore West rider and was thrilled to sit beside Allain and Carlin on an express train heading into Union Station. “Generally speaking, (he’s) a much better companion then a lot people who I sit beside,” she says. “Anything we can do to support service dogs we should be doing. In that way, we’re supporting the people who need them.”

Rolling into Union Station, Allain’s fellow passengers say one last goodbye to their new four-legged friend. “I’m just so grateful to GO Transit and to Metrolinx for championing the accessibility for service dogs in training,” Allain says as she walks toward the York Concourse. “It makes it easier for Carlin and I to get around – and for people riding GO Transit to learn more.”