2009 CHICAGO AUTO SHOW: Ford Transit Connect Goes to the Dogs

Ford’s Transit Connect utility van finally makes the trip across the pond. At the 2009 Chicago Auto Show, Ford unveils five Transit Connects specially modified for five very different needs, including a nonprofit organization that trains canines to be assistance dogs.

When the new, 2010 Ford Transit Connect goes on sale this summer, owners of small businesses across the land will undoubtedly covet one. This compact but efficiently designed box, already being put to good use across Europe, is just the thing for tradespeople, florists, delivery services, and the like. To underscore the Transit Connect’s versatility, Ford sponsored a contest to find the five most deserving recipients of new Transit Connects, based on their proposals for using the van. The five winners included a business that “babyproofs” homes; a maid service; a CPR training service called “Dummies on the Run”; a kayak sales and service business; and Circle Tail, a Cincinnati-based nonprofit organization that trains dogs to be service companions.

Picture here are Marlis Staley (left), executive director of Circle Tail, and Jen Kiblinger, president of Circle Tail’s board of directors, with two dogs who are soon to be assigned. Note the two levels of dog crates accessible through the Transit’s rear Dutch doors. Currently they have a Ford Windstar minivan with more than 130,000 miles on it, so they’re thrilled at the prospect of adding the Transit Connect to their fleet. “We are training about 40 dogs at any time,” explains Staley, “and we use our vehicles to haul dogs and equipment back and forth to a prison, where we train inmates to train the dogs.We place about 5 to 10 service dogs a year, and it takes two years to train them.” “We also adopt out about 250 dogs a year as pets,” adds Kiblinger.

I knew the Transit Connect would be used for many things, but I never imagined that one would be hauling dogs to prison.