Pet supply

Guide Dogs of the Desert celebrates graduation in person

The auditorium of the UCR Palm Desert Center was the setting for Desert Guide DogsThe May 21 graduation ceremony, the first since the COVID pandemic hit.

Since 1972, Coachella Valley-based Guide Dogs of the Desert, an accredited guide dog school, has been making a difference in the lives of blind and visually impaired people (referred to by the organization as “students”) by providing mobility, companionship and independence. with custom-trained guide dogs. All training is provided at no cost to the student.

Graduation celebrates the completion of the 18-month puppy-rearing process, where animals learn basic obedience, how to walk properly on a leash, potty training, house manners and socialization . Puppy raisers, who are all volunteers, accustom the dog to so many new situations that are relevant and age-appropriate, such as going to the bank, the grocery store, shopping malls, doctor’s offices, stairs, elevators , etc. It also includes teaching appropriate behavior when encountering new objects or distractions.

Puppy raisers open their hearts and homes to love and prepare puppies for the day they return to Guide Dogs of the Desert to meet their pupil and begin their official guide dog training.

Puppy breeder Jason Allen (left) poses with student Rocky Camp and Brinley, a female standard poodle, at the Guide Dogs of the Desert graduation ceremony on May 21, 2022.

At the heartwarming graduation, the puppy raiser finally comes together and officially transfers the dog to the guide dog trainer and permanent owner.

The event also kicked off the organization’s 50th anniversary. Wine and champagne were served during the pre-reception as well as tasty food provided by Bristol Farms.

The program began with a welcome from the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Guide Dogs of the Desert Gary Jeandron and executive director Robert Maher. Next up was a video showing the bond between a puppy breeder and his charge. This was followed by information on the guide dog training process, presented by Michal Anna Padilla, Kelsi McCausland and Ellie Carlson.

When it came time to meet the puppy breeders and their graduating subjects, the audience was visibly moved by the heartwarming connection between all parties. In some cases, the puppies stood obediently alongside their new pupils, while in others, they showed affection for their breeders. A puppy raiser even recited a poem she wrote from the perspective of the future guide dog.

Tricia Gehrlein, Secretary of the Board of Directors for Guide Dogs, shows off black Labrador puppy North during the Guide Dogs of the Desert graduation ceremony on May 21, 2022.

The program ended with the distribution of new future guide dog puppies to volunteer puppy raisers, and immediately afterwards, Ben & Jerry’s @ The River hosted an ice cream social.

Event sponsors included Contour dermatology, City real estate, Palm Springs Disposal Services, Dorothee MilauskasUCR Palm Desert, Palm Springs Plumbing Company Inc., Sue BurnsideBen & Jerry’s @ The River, Jacob Fine Arts Portraits, Earthwise Pet Supply Grooming and Washing, first mate, Rockies Chocolate Factory, Bristol Farms, National Charity League Inc., Hocker Productions and Burke Rix Communication.

Special thanks go to Martin Coogan ASL, Girl Mod DJ, Nathan Cox Studios, Pastry Swan, Desert Specials and all the volunteers of Chiens Guides du Désert.

To learn more about Desert Guide Dogs or to volunteer or donate, visit

As editor of philanthropy and special sections of The Desert Sun, Winston Gieseke writes about nonprofits, fundraisers, and locals giving back. Join it at [email protected].