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Guide Dog Program

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Guide Dog Program Overview

Thank you for your interest in a guide dog from Guide Dogs of the Desert.

Due to the generosity of our supporters, all services and training programs are provided at no cost to the client. Everything to get you started with a guide dog is included: guide dog, the 28-day in-residence training, all related equipment, and post-graduation support for the life of the team. Our services are available to clients from all across the country.  We invite you to explore the website to learn all about our training programs, classes and campus life, review the self-assessment information, and read the how-to-apply instructions before completing your application.”

Class Overview / Campus Life

Instructors carefully pre-match a specific dog to meet your individual needs based on your size, walking speed, home environment, and many other important factors. Class training will take place over four weeks (28 days), Monday through Saturday. Sundays are a day of rest. When you arrive to Guide Dogs of the Desert on a Sunday, you will receive a dorm orientation, meet your fellow classmates and instructors and sign a few contracts. Your formal training will begin on a Monday, and over the next four weeks you will cover the entire spectrum of training, equipping you for success in your post-graduate period. Training includes working your dog in harness in various environments that are relevant to your specific needs (suburban, urban and rural areas are primary examples). It also includes public transit, public buildings, shopping malls, routes with and without sidewalks, how to deal with obstacles on the sidewalks, safely crossing streets, as well as how to deal with the public and any access issues that might arise. During your class training, your instructor works with you on an individual basis. The student instructor ratio is 3:1. Upon the completion of your formal Guide Dog Training, you will have attained a high level of competency with your guide dog and will be well-established in your use of your home routes. While training, you will receive instruction consisting of a minimum of 15 hours theory and a minimum 30 hours practical in-harness instruction. Clients training with successor dogs will receive instruction consisting of a minimum of 10-15 hours theory and 20-30 hours practical in-harness instruction.

In-home Training
The average cost of an in-home placement is $5,000 or more depending on the client’s location and is determined on a case by case basis. Being a small school, we are not able to subsidize this amount. Therefore, the client will need to raise the funds to cover the costs associated with in-home training (airfare, car rental, hotel, meals, fuel, etc.). These funds would need to be raised before a placement could be done. Alternatively, clients who have had a guide dog in the past are eligible for a shorter 3- week training schedule should they choose to attend training on our campus.

Transportation: Does your organization pay for round trip airfare and incidental travel expenses to and from your facility?
Travel to and from our facility is the only cost that we ask our students to assume.

Accommodations: Are there one or two trainees to a room?  Shared bathroom?
We provide our students with private rooms.  In addition, we have a common room, a laundry room, a multimedia room with computer programs and Internet access, a patio smoking area, and an excellent chef. An Outreach and Student Services Coordinator/counselor who is a Guide Dog user is available for support and consultation.

Internet Access: Are there computers available to enable clients to access email and the Internet?
Yes. In our multimedia room we have two computers with installed speech and large print programs. There is also wireless internet.

Climate: When is the most moderate weather encountered in your region?
Usually October through May is when the weather is moderate, although December through February can be cooler. We only offer classes from September to June.

Dress Code: Please describe your organization’s dress code.
We offer a casual atmosphere that is consistent with the California and Palm Springs lifestyles.

Supplies: What clothing and supplies are recommended?
Since we are located in the low desert the weather is usually mild; but we can experience quite a variation in temperatures. Clothing that can be worn in layers is highly recommended as well as rain gear.  We also strongly recommend a backpack so that both hands are free to work the guide dog. Since there are usually two routes a day and we give our students individual instruction there is down time that can be filled with reading, games, knitting, hobbies, etc. We travel almost every day so things must be portable. We recommend bringing any devices used to assist the student in daily living to acclimate the dog during training.

Diabetes: What supports are on hand for persons with diabetes?
We will provide any necessary support to a student who needs transportation to doctor appointments.  Our chef can modify meals for diabetics.  It is our policy that a diabetic possess the ability to successfully monitor his/her own blood sugar and administer his/her own medications as indicative of being able to care for a guide dog.  We do not have medical personnel on staff.

Foot Health: What supports are on hand to prevent and manage the onset of foot problems?
Students are highly recommended to keep staff aware of any preexisting or new medical problems. Transportation to a doctor is provided, when necessary.  We highly recommend students make sure new shoes have been “broken in” before coming into class.  It is also recommended that students increase their walking routes prior to the beginning of class to build up their stamina.

Medical Care: If a trainee requires medical attention, how are the charges managed?
Medical charges are to be covered by the student’s insurance.

Recreation: What are the social, scenic, cultural, and entertainment opportunities in your region?
Sundays are student’s day off.  We encourage our students to have visitors on this day.  State law mandates that an instructor be with a student when working a guide dog, up to graduation, so the dog cannot leave with the student on Sundays. Therefore, if the student wishes to leave campus with a visitor, we ask that they only be gone from 9am – 12pm or 1pm – 4pm since these are the only times the dog’s needs do not need to be looked after. We greatly stress to our students the importance of spending time bonding with the guide dog outside of class time in these first few weeks.

Sighted Assistants: Are volunteer sighted guides available for shopping and other outings?
Since we are located in a somewhat remote area in which transportation to downtown Palm Springs is not easy, we try to incorporate shopping trips, restaurant meals, etc. into our training program. On Sundays we have volunteers who will transport a student to church services, if desired.

For more information you may contact:

Linda Samulski
Outreach and Student Services Coordinator
760-329-6257 x262 or at lsamulski@gddca.org

Self-Assessment

Do you meet the following requirements?

  • Have you been declared legally blind? Visual acuity of 20/200 or worse in the better eye with corrective lenses (20/200 means that a person at 20 feet from an eye chart can see what a person    with normal vision can see at 200 feet or a visual field restriction to 20 degrees diameter or less (tunnel vision) in the better eye.
  • Are you at least 18 years of age? (There is no upper age limit.)
  • Are you able to walk ½ – 1 hour routes two times daily?
  • Have you had formal orientation and mobility instruction or an evaluation by and orientation instructor?
  • It will be your responsibility to direct the dog, offer praise, and correct poor behavior if required in conjunction with reading traffic and utilizing appropriate orientation skills. Do you feel that you would be able to confidently meet this criteria?
  • Considering the commitment involved in having, using, and maintaining a guide dog, do you feel you have the emotional stability, self-discipline, and physical stamina required to be a confident leader in order to be a successful guide dog team?
  • Do you have a hearing loss that affects your ability to read traffic consistently, thereby preventing you from safely executing street crossings?
  • Do you routinely travel independently with your cane or current guide dog to familiar home or work environments?
  • Having a Guide Dog comes with a lot of responsibilities; this includes providing the dog with a quality brand of dog food, providing a consistent watering, relieving and feeding schedule and daily grooming, visits to your veterinarian and of course play sessions. Do you feel that you can meet these needs that your dog will be reliant on you to provide?
  • Is your family and friends supportive of you having a Guide Dog? Do you feel that they will adhere to the basic guidelines with respect to the care, feeding and management of a guide dog? When your dog is off duty (not working), would you enjoy the companionship of having a dog with you in the home and when there is downtime?

FAQ

To read more about our training program, classes, and campus life, please review the Frequently Asked Questions here. If you are unable to find the information you need, please contact us at 760-329-6257.

How to Apply

We would like to thank you for your interest in applying for a guide dog at Guide Dogs of the Desert. The procedures for applying are as follows:

An applicant must complete the following forms and return them to the admissions department at Guide Dogs of the Desert. Copies of these forms can be found online or a print copy can be requested by contacting Guide Dogs of the Desert.

1) An application

2) A request for references (personal, O&M Specialist and Blind Services Professional)

3) A release of information form

4) A report from your primary care physician and

5) A report from your ophthalmologist/optometrist

In addition to these forms, each applicant needs to submit an application video. This video assists the trainers in getting to know more about you and what dog would be the best match for you. Instructions and requirements for the video are also found online or included in an application packet.

Once your application is complete, it will be reviewed by a committee. This committee meets  every three months (January, April, July and November). When a decision has been made, a letter will be sent to you regarding either your acceptance or denial to the school.

Classes are held between the months of September and June and assignments are made 30 days prior to the start date by phone. If you accept the starting date then a packet will be sent to you with a letter of confirmation and more information as to what to expect while you are here.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call Guide Dogs of the Desert at 760-329-6257. We look forward to meeting you in the future.

Application

The application will take about an hour to complete. Please provide as detailed and honest answers as possible, as this application is central to us getting to know what dog will be the best match for you.

You will need to provide the names and either email or mailing addresses of three personal references. Personal references are friends or family that will be able to speak to your home, your daily work and your personality. If you have received Orientation and Mobility training within the last 5 years, please provide the name and an email or mailing address for your instructor.

Once you have read all of the proceeding, you may continue to the online application by scrolling down.

NOTE: If you would like verification that your application has been submitted, scroll back to the top after you are done. Confirmation should appear. You will also be sent a letter within two weeks of your application. Scroll down to the end of this web page for more forms that will be needed for your application to proceed. Video Instructions, Information Release, Ophthalmologist-Optometrist Report, and Physicians Report. These forms will also be mailed to you with notice that your application was received.

Required Forms

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