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Fall 2020 Newsletter – Text Version

Home / Fall 2020 Newsletter – Text Version

Message From The Leadership Team

We had a busy summer here on campus – connecting with prospective students (remotely!), training future guide dogs, providing routine canine medical care, increasing our social media presence, focusing on improving internal processes –and a fire evacuation (see page 3 & 4).  While the COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying restrictions for safe social interactions has compromised our ability to hold class on campus this fall, we are continually preparing to get back to school with safety protocols in place.
Over the past months, the Student Services Department has been assisting prospective students with their applications by assessing their readiness and preparedness for the training and lifestyle of a Guide Dog team.  During the summer, the department has seen an increase in inquiries and applications to our school.  People are taking advantage of this time of at-home isolation to explore opportunities they may not have had time for in their busy pre-coronavirus life.  We have thirty applicants in varying degrees of process, and eleven students that are currently accepted to our school for training, eagerly awaiting to attend class once safety protocols allow.

For the Training Department, summer in the desert always brings its own challenges, and summer during COVID-19 has presented entirely new elements to the equation!  Our usual methods for beating the heat still hold true: early mornings to get in a day’s work before the mid-day temperatures arrive, using off-campus training locations that provide cooler weather, and using the specially equipped training vans with advanced climate control to keep the dogs and trainers cool. However, this year we needed to utilize training sites with limited foot traffic for social distancing, our equipment constantly carries a lingering scent of disinfectant, and strangest of all, the dogs have had to get used to seeing only the top half of our faces!
Picture Description: Staff members are in the auditorium on the Guide Dogs of the Desert Campus, all of which are social distancing during an all staff meeting.
On-campus, the Canine Development and Medical teams have been hard at work welcoming nine new puppies to the Guide Dogs of the Desert family and expecting another litter any day – all of whom proudly join our Class of 2023. (It takes three years from birth to graduation, so the puppies born this summer have a lot of growing and learning to do!)  New puppies mean a chance for the team to host the very exciting Puppy Handout Day! These are special days when our Puppy Raisers bring an eight-week-old future Guide Dog into their home for 20 months of love and enhanced basic training.

You may have seen the cute little faces of our Class of 2023 puppies during our Back to School Campaign on Facebook and Instagram. If you do not follow us on social media, please take a look, give us a like, and a follow to help us spread education and awareness about our mission. Stay tuned for our next four-legged fundraiser in October leading up to Halloween! It won’t involve candy or tricks, but it will include treats!  Utilizing positive reinforcement with healthy dog treats, we would like to invite you to “Trick-or-Treat” for our canine students through our Amazon wish list. Be sure to watch your email for information on how to participate in this virtual event.

As you can see, everyone at Guide Dogs of the Desert has been hard at work, making sure we are ready to once again create custom trained Guide Dog teams. Through these challenging times, we remain committed to and proud of supporting the mission that you help us achieve through your donations of time, talent, and treasure.  Thank you!
Picture Description: Volunteer Coordinator, Aimee Salzmann is kneeling on the ground with a black lab, both looking at the camera. Aimee is wearing her pink “These Paws Have Power” shirt and black Guide Dogs of the Desert face mask.
Picture Description: Veterinary Assistant, Stella Ontiveros is holding two chunky black lab puppies in each hand while wearing a Guide Dogs of the Desert Staff shirt and hat and looking into the camera.

Picture Description: Director of Student Services, Tim Hindman is kneeling in his office with a small white standard poodle. Both are looking at the camera and Tim is wearing a black Guide Dogs of the Desert Facemask.


The Water Fire

August was undoubtedly a chaotic month here at Guide Dogs of the Desert; our staff was keeping an eye out on the Apple Fire when the Water Fire broke out about a mile from campus.
The flames were cresting on the ridge behind the school and smoke from both fires filled the air making it difficult to breathe. That’s when the GDD Leadership Team decided that it was time to evacuate the 23 dogs and puppies who we’re living on campus.

Kennel staff started making phone calls to arrange foster homes. Our GDD family quickly came together! Board Members, Puppy Raisers, volunteers, and staff all took dogs into their homes to ensure they would be safe from the fire and smoke. The entire campus was evacuated within a matter of hours.

Picture Description: There are three different pictures on this page, all showing different sides of the GDD campus at different times of the fire. The first picture shows very heavy dark brown and orange smoke, the second picture shows the outside of the student dorms white a large brown and white smoke cloud and the third picture shows the campus quad with a large white and grey smoke cloud.

The Water Fire had been contained in a matter of days, but just as staff members started to return to campus and planning on dogs returning to school, there was an additional evacuation warning issued due to the Apple Fire. The Apple Fire, which had scorched close to 25,000 acres at that point, was making its way to Whitewater Canyon, which is just over six miles from campus. Due to the evacuation warning, the Leadership Team had to make the decision to keep the dogs and puppies in foster homes until the all-clear was given.

Picture Description: Guide Dog in training, Marion “hanging out” with his new friend Ariella in a tree house play set in the backyard.

After two very long weeks, all of our staff members, puppies, and dogs returned safely, and no damage occurred to the campus. Dogs in training were able to pick up right where they left off just in time for back to school season, where they continue to work towards their goal of becoming a Guide Dog. We are so incredibly thankful to everyone who helped get our dogs out safely. Because of the continued support from our GDD family, our dogs were quickly secured in safe, caring environments.

Picture Description: Guide Dogs in training, Rocquie and Henley lending a helping paw to their new study buddies ( three young boys) during their “staycation.”

Picture Description: NBC Palm Springs reporter, Daytona Everett with poodle puppies in training Maisy and London after GDD dogs returned to campus. She is kneeling on the grass hugging both parti poodle puppies.

Picture Description: Director of Development, Jennifer Heggie during the NBC Palm Spring interview about the Water Fire. She is sitting on the couch with a black lab while being interviews by NBC Palm Springs.


Join The Powerful Paws Club

Your generosity gives our paws the power to change lives!

We invite you to join our Powerful Paws Club; you can sign up by visiting or giving our office a call at 760.329.6257.

With your monthly support, you are making a difference in a visually impaired person’s life. We are 100% donor-funded and need supporters like you to continue fulfilling our mission.

Tail Waggers: For as little as $10 a month, new subscribers will receive “Poodle Doodle and Lab Note” sticky notes with a Guide Dogs of the Desert pen.

Leader of the Pack: For $30 a month, new subscribers will receive a Guide Dogs of the Desert lunch tote.

Top Dog: For $50 a month, new subscribers will receive a “These Paws Have Power T-Shirt”

Working Dog: With an increased monthly pledge of $100 a month, or more, new subscribers will receive a Plush Dog wearing a “These Paws Have Power” bandana along with the name of a working dog. Subscribers will also receive a “These Paws Have Power” hoodie.


Estate Planning | Sponsorships

Leave a Lasting Legacy! If you would like to extend your support of Guide Dogs of the Desert to make a lasting impact, there are several gift arrangements to choose from. The Maynard Society recognizes individuals who have provided for Guide Dogs of the Desert in their estate plans. To become a member, simply let us know you have named Guide Dogs of the Desert as a beneficiary in your will, trust, gift annuity, life insurance policy, 401K or other similar tax-deferred retirement plan.

Whether you would like to put your donation to work today or benefit us after your lifetime, you can find a charitable plan that lets you provide for your family while also supporting Guide Dogs of the Desert. Please Contact Ben Schirmer, Executive Director for more information at or 760.329.6257

You Can Help Make A difference!

$100 helps provide shampoo and grooming supplies for the dogs on campus during their training
$250 helps provide toys and bowls for the dogs on campus during their training
$500 helps feed our dogs for one month
$750 helps provide the necessary equipment (leashes and harnesses) for our dogs during their training
$1,000 helps provide medical services for our dogs during their journey to become a guide dog
Puppy Sponsorships
$5,000 – Puppy Supporter
Name a puppy and join us for your named dogs journey
Receive a birth announcement & photo of your named dog
Receive update letters at birth, nine months, and 18 months letting you know how your named puppy is doing on it’s journey
$10,000 – Puppy Advocate (Our Most Popular Level)
All of the above, plus:
Private meeting with your named dog and a VIP tour of campus
Photo of you with your named dog
GDD pin to show your support of your named dog
$20,000 – Puppy Champion
All of the above, plus:
Private meeting with your named dog, at your place of choosing
Spend four hours with a GDD trainer – either for your own dog or with
your named dog
Dinner with a graduating class and their dogs
Personalized professional GDD leash for your personal dog or for your named dog
Two tickets to Dog Day Afternoon, our signature fundraising event
$40,000 – Puppy Hero – Name two Puppies!
All of the above, but you get to name two puppies, plus:
Session with a GDD professional to discuss nutrition for either your personal dog or for your named dog
Four tickets to Dog Day Afternoon, our signature fundraising event


Equipment Sponsors Needed

Guide Dogs of the Desert’s puppies need your help to become guide dogs.
Your donation of $750.00 ensures that our trained dogs have the equipment necessary to become working guide dogs
Picture Description: A black Labrador is laying down with his head on the floor wearing a Guide Dog harness and looking at the camera.
Thank You Puppy Raisers
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has canceled our in-person Puppy Raiser events, it hasn’t stopped our incredible volunteers from going virtual with zoom classes and socially distanced On-Campus Canine Classes. Puppy Raisers and Puppy Sponsors are an enormous part of Guide Dogs of the Desert. We are so incredibly grateful to our amazing volunteers, donors, and sponsors. Come join the journey of a lifetime with our GDD family by becoming a puppy raiser and help teach fundamental skills puppies need to learn on their journey to becoming Guide Dogs.
Picture Description: Winston, a black lab puppy in training is sitting in the GDD quad on the grass wearing his blue Guide Dog in Training vest while sitting next to his Guide Dogs of the Desert backpack.
Happy Semi-Retirement Ruth and Jack Carey!
Jack and Ruth Carey started puppy raising for Guide Dogs of the Desert in 1997 when their children went off to college and they developed “empty nest syndrome.”  After they started puppy raising, they discovered a need for the volunteer puppy raisers to get together and train the dogs as a team in a group setting. In response to this need, they began hosting monthly meetings at their home and organizing training outings in the community. They played a huge role in putting together all the holiday parties on campus, that always included important learning opportunities for the puppies in training. In 2012, Ruth founded the very popular Guide Pup Jamboree, which is a day full of training and fun for raisers and pups alike! Jack and Ruth have raised 19 dogs to date. They puppy raise because, as Jack Carey stated: “It is a very enjoyable way for us to volunteer our time and service to others who could not raise a puppy for themselves.  Guide Dogs of the Desert provides us with such an outlet for our desire to help bridge the gap between the sighted and the sight-impaired communities.  Whenever we return a fully developed dog to Guide Dogs of the Desert, we know that we have played a significant role in helping a sight-impaired person gain or maintain mobility and independence in an otherwise dark and dependent world.”In 2005, while still puppy raising, Ruth and Jack Carey became The Volunteer Area Leaders for Guide Dogs of the Desert.  After 15 years in this role, they have decided to step back from being area leads but remain engaged through puppy raising.We would like to take this opportunity thank them for their leadership over the years, and wish them a very happy (semi) retirement!  Emily Goodland is a trainer at Guide Dogs of the Desert and the daughter of Ruth and Jack.  Per Emily “All the love, kindness, passion they have put into outings, meetings, and helping fellow puppy raisers on their journey shines through all the dogs and has made GDD a fun family experience for all involved.  Thank you for 15 years of training disguised as fun!
All the volunteers and staff at GDD can’t say thank you enough to Ruth and Jack!

Picture Description: Ruth and Jack Carey are sitting with their three grandsons and their three Labradors, one yellow, one chocolate and one black.

Upcoming Events:

Virtual Trick-Or-Treat Campaign
Puppy Raiser Virtual Howl-O-Ween

Giving Tuesday 12/1
Socially Distanced Santa Paws 12/19

Say Yes To The Vest Virtual Campaign
The Gardens at El Paseo 1/30

Dog Day Afternoon

Amazon Smile

To shop at AmazonSmile simply go to from your web browser on your computer or mobile device and select Guide Dogs of the Desert as your charity of choice.
AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support GDD every time you shop, at no additional cost to you.
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