Little Q, a golden retriever in a red vest, has embarked on a 1,300-kilometer journey with his master during the Spring Festival travel rush.
“Little Q is my eyes and I can rest assured with him,” said Su Bo, the dog’s owner and a man with a visual impairment.
With the help of Little Q and station staff, he made it on to high-speed G1956 Sunday linking Suzhou, in eastern Jiangsu Province, with his hometown Taiyuan, capital of northern Shanxi Province.
The travel rush began 15 days ahead of the Chinese New Year festival, which falls on February 5 this year. Nearly 3 billion trips will be made on China’s transport system.
A steward led Su and Little Q to a seat near the bathroom and offered him a service bell. Pressing the button brings a crew member in just a minute.
Designed for people with disabilities, seniors and children traveling alone, the service bell was put into use by the Nanjing railway authorities for a pilot run this Spring Festival.
“There is a QR code on each table. Passengers can scan it to order food online. But that may not help seniors or people with disabilities, so we launched this device,” said Zheng Ying, head of the train crew.
China has over 17 million blind and visually-impaired people. Many are restricted to home due to the inconvenience of going out.
“I appreciate their kindness and considerate service,” said Su, a columnist for a magazine in Suzhou.
He was diagnosed with an eye disease at the age of 30 and lost his eyesight. In 2013, he got 2-year-old Little Q.
It was the first time for Su, accompanied by his guide dog, to go home alone. It was a tedious journey for Little Q, who lay silently under the table for most of the journey unless his master needed help.
Su fed him before the train started and offered him some water on the nine-hour trip.
“I have to control his food intake. It’s a problem if the dog needs to go pee or poop on the train,” Su said.
According to Chinese regulations, passengers cannot carry animals on trains. However, the China Railway Corporation and the China Disabled Persons’ Federation formulated a regulation in 2015 allowing visually-impaired people to take guide dogs on trains.
Passengers were curious about Little Q. Some children tried to pat or feed him. The train crew explained that they must not disturb the dog when he was doing its work.
“I feel warmhearted as people with disabilities can be respected and join the Spring Festival travel rush with us to go home,” said passenger Wang Jun.
There is one year left before Little Q retires. Su hopes to accompany his friend in his later life.
“Little Q has been my guide for years. When we arrive in Taiyuan, I want to become his tour guide.”