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The pandemic has put things on hold for Guide Dogs of the Desert, an organization dedicated to raising and training dogs for the disabled and visually impaired.
As News Channel 3’s Madison Weil reports, now that the county is in the ‘red tier’ of reopening, they hope to start providing dogs again for those in need.
“A guide dog is invaluable to people who use them. They are their safety net, they get them one place to another not only usually faster than with a white cane, but safer,” said Michal Anna Padilla, Training Supervisor, Guide Dogs of the Desert.
“In addition they provide what most dogs provide to us…it’s that companionship,” she added. “We teach them specifically how to find doors, stairs, elevators and escalators.”
Padilla says due to the pandemic, they’ve been unable to match their dogs with owners in need, since clients typically come to their Whitewater campus for a 28 day class.
“We can’t bring everyone here in such close proximity it’s basically a dorm setting,” she said.
Now that the county has eased some coronavirus restrictions, the organization is working on a new solution: “Right now our plan is to do what we call an ‘in-home’ where we actually bring a dog out to someone so the only interaction would be the instructor with the person.”
Padilla says an instructor will deliver the dog and complete their training at their new home. They’ll be focusing on west coast clients for now to avoid flying as much as possible.
“We’ve got people that are waiting to receive dogs. We’ve got dogs that are waiting to meet their new people,” she said.
That’s the other challenge for the organization — they’re currently taking care of more dogs on site than usual, since many would have been placed in new homes by now. It’s caused an increase in costs for the center.
Padilla says they’re also in need of “puppy raisers.”
“So you get them when they’re about eight week old and you teach them basic manners…sit, down, stay,” she explained.
She says puppy raisers keep puppies for about 18 months before giving them back to Guide Dogs of the Desert for their official training.
For more information on how you can sign up to become a puppy raiser or how you can donate to help Guide Dogs of the Desert, click here.