Tuesday, July 16, 2013

All Aboard!: Irwin Rides a Steam Train

Donna, Jim, and Irwin have been working long, hot hours in the orchard and vineyard, which means none of them have had much time for fun. So on Saturday, they took the day off and went to New Freedom to visit Steam into History, where you can relive the history of the railroad during the Civil War. They rode Engine #17, a replica of the Civil War steam engine that Abraham Lincoln used to get to Gettysburg to deliver the Gettysburg Address. The same tracks were later used by his funeral train. The day Irwin visited, there was a reenactor portraying Josiah Gitt, who was a farmer, dry goods merchant, and a community leader during the Civil War.  

While they waited for the “All Aboard!” they practiced cues. They did verbal cues in a normal voice and a whisper and hand signals. 

In order to board the train, they had to climb a series of wooden and then metal steps. Both sets were open and narrow. Donna wasn’t sure how Irwin would do. When she cued him to go up the stairs, he took them two at a time, while she only took one step at a time. However, Irwin waited for her each time rather than charging ahead. When they reached the doorway, Irwin automatically did a go on through and sat.

To get to their seats, they walked along a metal walkway, which was a little wobbly. Irwin didn’t seem to mind, though. Irwin went under their seat, but because they were so close together, he ended up partially underneath the seat behind them. The passenger cars were hot and sooty from the smoke from the steam engine. Irwin was panting, and Donna was hot, so they decided to move to the open air car. When Irwin got up from underneath the seat, he looked like a zebra because he was striped with soot. 

The open air car was much cooler, especially from the breeze of the moving train. It also wasn’t as crowded. Irwin was on his best behavior, even though the kids sitting across from him kept trying to pet and play with him. Once the train started moving, it didn’t take him long to settle in and fall asleep to the rhythm of the tracks. 

Before departing, Donna let the children, the conductor, and anyone else greet him. He loved it. He was very gentle with the kids and gave them puppy kisses.

Going down the steps at the junction was much more difficult. The steps were steep and you couldn’t see the next one until you took the step. Irwin did the steps one at a time with his toes spread wide as if he wanted to make absolutely sure he found the step.

At the junction, they has some time to stretch their legs and get a drink. Irwin had fun doing some play retrieves with his favorite Chuck-It ball!

Re-boarding so they could return to the station was also more challenging. There was just a step stool and then you had to take a huge step up to reach the next step. The conductor was going to entice Irwin to simply leap up, thinking that would be easiest, but Donna told them that Irwin knew cues that could help. While Irwin waited on the ground, Donna used the step stool and then stepped way up onto the next step. She then cued Irwin to join her and he leaped right up! Once he was beside her, they finished the rest of the steps side by side. Everyone broke out with cheering and applause for him!

As they walked through the train cars, Irwin matched Donna’s pace step for step. All that loose leash walking practice on and off leash at home is really paying off!

Overall, it was a fun experience, and Irwin didn’t have any issues with the steam engine, even when it let off steam, the smell of black smoke, or the train whistle. The first time he heard the sound of the engine letting off steam, he turned around to look but remained calm. Irwin wore his comfort trainer while they were doing the steps and walking through the cars, but otherwise, he just wore a flat collar.



  1. Irwin is going to be a GREAT service dog. It's been fun to follow his adventures and progress.

  2. I love reading these entries. Thanks for letting us in on Irwin's adventures!