- I myself have known some profoundly thoughtful dogs. – James Thurber, humorist and cartoonist for the New Yorker magazine and a great lover of dogs.
Here at Metro, that would be Shadow, the 10-year-old black Labrador who recently retired as a Guide Dog to Agustin Moreno, a systems analyst in service planning who’s been totally blind since the age of 16.
A constant and unerring companion, Shadow seemed always at Moreno’s side since taking up the post in 2004.
At first, Shadow’s job description was strictly within the scope for a Guide Dog.
Whether it was on the elevator, in the cafeteria, on trips to bus or rail divisions, taking transit home to Highland Park or napping in Moreno’s cubicle on the 7th floor of Metro’s HQ, Shadow’s presence was calming, giving all of us a reassuring pause that grace and ease will get us to where we’re going.
It didn’t take long before Shadow’s attention to detail and expert assistance to Moreno caught the attention of managers looking for an eager upstart who could handle whatever they threw at her.
They must have seen the Friday afternoon breaks, when Moreno’s associate, Susan Phifer, would invite Shadow out to the hallway for a toy toss. There, for 10 exhilarating minutes, Shadow would chase the ball and retrieve an errant toy porcupine, unless it landed on the copy machine, in which case Phifer’s boss would fetch it, unperturbed.
Soon thereafter, Shadow was recruited as a systems tester, information booth and event staffer, ADA trainer for operations personnel and poster girl for Access Services, a independent para-transit service offered to individuals whose disabilities prevent them from independently using regular bus or rail service.
Sporting an official Metro badge with her photo and employee number, Shadow showed bus and train operators how to assist riders with disabilities who were, in turn, assisted by their service dog. (For more information, see Getting Around: Riders with Disabilities at metro.net)
She tested the Automated Passenger Counting System that schedulers use to determine ridership, and patrolled the light rail platforms to inspect the knobby safety path and bright yellow pylons that warn the visually impaired of the platform’s edge.
She donned a Metro Gold Line staff t-shirt to staff the information booth at the opening of the Metro Gold Line Eastside Extension in 2009. She posed and acted in a day-long photo shoot for Access Services posters and brochures.
She even tested the automatic voice broadcast on board buses and trains, listening for the right stop where she was trained to exit with Moreno. (If you are hearing those messages better these days, you have Shadow to thank.)
On the afternoon before her last day at Metro, her 7th floor co-workers threw her a retirement party, decking out a conference room like a giant kennel complete with doggie treats, toys and a giant gift-wrapped bone. The requisite chips and salsa were served for the grown-ups, but the rest of the treats had an animal house flare, such as chocolate cat cookies and Goldfish crackers.
One last sad duty was turning in her employee badge. Now, she can no longer board the bus or train as a genuine service dog. Worse, she gets no pension, even though she has worked at Metro for the equivalent of 52 and one-half dog years.
The upside: Pensions come and go. Bones and cookies get stale. But, friends for life, your own backyard and a killer resume? Priceless.
Addendum: As Shadow begins a life of off-leash leisure at home, Moreno is in residence at a Guide Dogs of America training center going through the paces of bonding with a new Guide Dog. He’ll be returning to work Dec. 19, a new service dog by his side. We’re all anxious to meet him or her. That dog has big paw prints to fill.