Guide Dog Gives KCATA Chief Executive Freedom

Sept. 11, 2017
For Robbie Makinen, chief executive of the KCATA, a dog is more than a companion to play fetch with, Loki opens the world to him.

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Dogs are affectionate in so many ways.

They jump on you and lick you when you get home from work. They play ball in the yard. They’re companions on walks in the neighborhood. And they’re great snugglers.

But for Robbie Makinen, chief executive of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, a dog is all that and so much more.

Robbie’s dog, Loki, opens the world to him. Blind since 2013, Robbie decided this year to get a service dog that would give him the independence to move around more easily.

 “Loki allows me freedom,” Robbie said. “That freedom is the ability to get out of my house at night and walk around my neighborhood. It seems like nothing, but it’s a big deal.”

Robbie, who lost his sight when the blood flow to the optic nerves shut off, had been reluctant to get either a cane or a service dog. Eventually, he relented.

“I felt like I was starting to be a burden on my family, on my friends and my co-workers.” If Loki could help Robbie be more independent, then he thought, “Let’s do it.”

Trained by retired Army Rangers, Loki is as much friend as service dog.

“People come up and want to pet your dog. You don’t want to be rude, but the dog is working,” Robbie said. “You don’t want to confuse him. When he’s working, he’s working.”

Robbie spent two to three months training with the dog. He learned how to relate to Loki, understanding the many different ways the dog communicates to him.

Robbie plugged into the nuances of how the dog’s movement would talk to him, telling him about an approaching curb or other obstacles that might impede his movement.

“It took more training on my part than the dog’s,” Robbie said.

“He’s always the center of attention. People think he’s beautiful,” Robbie said. “He gets the royal treatment wherever he goes.”

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