An important part of raising potential guide dogs is exposure to any kind of travel a blind person might undertake. People who live in northern Washington use ferries. Some ferries are small, only carrying passengers. The Black Ball Transport’s M/V Coho, traveling between Port Angeles and Victoria B.C., is 341 ft. long, with capacity for 101 vehicles and up to 1000 passengers.
It’s good experience for the dogs to be aboard a ship with lots of people and new noises. It’s only a 90-minute passage each way, and the dogs can practice walking long sets of steep stairs, and staying focused on their handlers.
I love being on boats and ships, any size, from kayaks to freighters. It makes me feel like I’m in an old Errol Flynn adventure film. Back when polishing up movies for DVD release was my profession, I helped restore The Sea Hawk (1940), which features a rousing score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Though the Coho is a sleek, diesel-powered ship, very modern for 1959, this is what was playing in my mind as we headed out across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
We traveled with five dogs, ranging in age from five months to two years old, and seven human handlers. Victoria is a much bigger city than these dogs live in. There were many kinds of novelties for them to observe and adapt to. There was more traffic, and there were new kinds of animals for them to practice “non-distraction” with.
It was a beautiful, sunny day, and the streets were filled with artists, artisans, merchants and musicians. Victoria is nicknamed “The Garden City”, and there were flowers everywhere.
It was the best kind of busy imaginable. All the dogs did well, and got plenty of exercise. On the return trip, they all settled down to nap.