Patty the Poodle was one of the first puppies to give birth at Sandy’s Nursery – the new puppy school at Guide Dogs of the Desert.
The accredited guide dog school based in Coachella Valley trains puppies to be guide dogs for blind or visually impaired people. All seven of Patty’s puppies were handed over to new foster parents at a kindergarten unveiling on Friday.
This was Patty’s second and last litter. The pooch’s new home is with Sherrie Auen, trustee of the Auen Foundation and grandmother of Sanford (Sandy) Reed, after whom the nursery is named. Reed was hit by a car and killed in Palm Desert last summer. He was 25.
“Sandy loved this place – loved it,” said Auen. Patty’s sister Casey was adopted by Reed’s mother when she was released from the program three years ago. Casey was with Reed when the accident happened. “She wouldn’t leave his side.”
Reed’s obituary states that he “danced and sang his way through life and made the hearts of everyone happy who was lucky enough to cross his path. Even in his final moments, Sandy put a smile on a stranger’s face, as he danced across a zebra crossing. ” an evening walk with his dog Casey. “
His family, after whom Patty’s latest litter was named, have been long-time supporters of desert guide dogs. The Palm Desert resident had attended school just weeks before his death and promised to return and put the dogs on TikTok.
“Kindergartens are a source of hope, and this one pays homage to Sandy’s generosity. It is also a celebration for him, ”said managing director Tricia Gehrlein. “The Sanford J. Reed Nursery is a place that represents opportunities that will unfold for a long time to come.”
With the on-site crèche, the puppies can be looked after around the clock.
“This daycare is incredibly important in fulfilling the mission of guide dogs of the desert,” said Guido Portante, vice chairman of the board for guide dogs of the desert, on Friday. The help of a guide dog can dramatically improve the lives of people with visual impairment, Portante said.
“We know guide dogs offer independence, companionship and opportunity,” he said.
“It’s like raising a child – it’s around the clock”
It takes three years to raise and train a guide dog, Portante said. When the puppies are between 8 and 12 weeks old, they will be placed in foster care where they will stay until they are 18 months old. The dogs then go back to school on the desert campus for six months.
Approximately 40% of dogs do not reach the level of a “guide dog” but are usually able to move on to some other type of service work. Otherwise they can be adopted.
SuccessfulDogs are then paired with a visually impaired student and taken together for four weeks of instruction.
“It almost feels like magic,” said Portante. “By the time the students graduate, these obstacles are gone and the world opens up for them.”
One of the most important things dogs need to learn is “intelligent disobedience,” which means that the dog will refuse a command if it is unsafe. These skills are learned on the Whitewater campus while other skills are learned at home and in the community with puppy breeders.
Jeff Jewell calls these skills “house manners”. This includes that the dogs do not eat from the garbage can or try to eat from their people’s plates, according to the indigenous resident.
Jewell and his wife Debi are almost done raising their 13th guide dog Sonny, a 14-month-old poodle. He said that he is telling the dogs that if they don’t eat his human food, he will not eat their dog food.
“It’s like raising a kid – it’s around the clock,” said Jewell. Being a puppy breeder takes time and flexibility, he said. “Wherever we go, the dog goes.”
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It is a little easier for the couple today than when they started raising guide dogs. Your tenth foster home, Spirit, a gold laboratory, was perfect for working with guide dogs and in excellent health; but his paws were too sensitive to walk over rough surfaces like sidewalk bars. Spirit now lives with them and acts as a role model for Sonny.
“Having a mentor makes training a lot easier,” said Jewell.
“They are not your pet – they are a gift”
Letting go of the dogs has also become easier. The first puppy they raised was also their first dog as a family so one was difficult. But, said Jewell, “They are not your pet – they are a gift for the independence and security of a blind person in their mobility.”
And he added that it was amazing to see the connection the dogs and their new human companions have during graduation.
You have to see the big picture, said Beaumont’s Jeff Sheppard.
“This is my first time,” Sheppard said while holding Sherry, one of Patty’s pups, off campus on Friday. “I know this dog will be hard to give up.”
Still, he said, he was looking forward to it.
Sheppard runs an animal shelter in San Jacinto and has previously looked after homeless pets. One foster animal that became a pet forever was Bubba, a three-legged basset hound who recently died.
“It was a special bond,” said Sheppard. That loss was one of the reasons he wanted to try raising a guide dog. He also has a special needs grandson and likes the idea that Sherry will help someone in need of extra help.
The Auen Foundation had already raised $ 50,000 for the kindergarten, part of the school’s goal of creating an in-house breeding program. And after Reed’s death, friends and family donated more than $ 10,000 to the organization in his memory. The rest of the funding was then provided by the Auen Foundation and the HN and Frances C. Berger Foundation.
The two foundations each gave an additional $ 25,000 on Friday, which will be used to pay medical expenses related to the breeding program.
Maria Sestito covers issues of aging in the Coachella Valley. She is also a Corps member on Report for America. Follow her on Twitter @RiaSestito, on Instagram @RiaSestito_Reporter or email her at [email protected]