OGDEN -- Misty changed Glenna Foremaster's life. As the Ogden resident sat on a FrontRunner car Thursday, her assistance dog, Misty, approached a man in a wheelchair sitting near them. Happy to see the animal, the man sparked up a conversation with Foremaster and the other passengers as Misty licked his hand.
"He's a licker. That's the first thing I tell everyone," Foremaster said, chuckling.
It was a moment of easy socializing for Foremaster, who also is in a wheelchair.
"I was kind of lonely before," Foremaster said, but now she attends meetings for Canine Companions for Independence, a nonprofit group that gives dogs like Misty to people with a disability, and now she feels like a member of that community.
She participated in one such event Thursday afternoon in which 10 CCI dogs and their owners and volunteer trainers rode FrontRunner from Ogden to Farmington and back.
The exercise was meant to get the dogs used to the rumbling noise of the train.
The dogs go everywhere with their owners.
Misty accompanies Foremaster to her job at the Internal Revenue Service and to the store, and stays with her at home so if Foremaster drops her glasses or her phone, Misty is there to pick it up for her.
"I used to have to reach down, and it caused me a lot of back pain," Foremaster said.
For 6-year-old Sofia Boughton, her dog, Gyla, makes it easier for people to be social with her. Sofia has an undiagnosed condition that keeps her from making eye contact or speaking to people who talk to her.
It used to be that other children and even adults did not know how to approach Sofia, said her father, Bruce Boughton.
"Now, people want to be social with her because of Gyla," he said.
The dog provides children at school, adults at the store and patrons at coffee shops a furry icebreaker to Sofia, he said.
Gyla also provides Sofia with physical therapy. Sofia loves to wash, feed and brush Gyla, he said.
As Sofia gently patted Gyla's ear as the train rolled along, the dog stood still and remained calm.
The dogs had no problem with the FrontRunner train -- except Tripoli, the youngest dog at 4 months, who wet herself at the station when the train pulled up. She is still in the early stages of training, though, and stayed cool the rest of the day.
All of the specially bred dogs spend a year and a half with a volunteer trainer, then a few months with a professional before they are ready to be matched with a disabled owner.
Teresa Oborn volunteered to raise and train Tonia, her first dog since her pawed companion of 15 years died seven years ago.
"It's like raising a child again," she said.
It's people like Oborn who make the program possible, said Linda Weiskopf, a volunteer trainer who evangelizes the program and helped recruit most of the members who were on the train. She has been a volunteer for five years.
"It's the most heartwarming thing I've ever done," Weiskopf said.
Once the dogs graduate from training, the owners receive them for free. But that cannot happen without the volunteers, which the group needs more of, Weiskopf said.
"There's the joy of getting to see them go to people like Sofia and Glenna," she said.
Anyone interested in applying for or training a dog can reach Weiskopf at email@example.com or at 801-389-5245.