A recent grad­u­a­tion at Guide Dogs of the Desert (GDD) held spe­cial sen­ti­ment to lead­ers of the Auen Foun­da­tion, which has sup­port­ed the non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tion for more than a decade. This grad­u­a­tion was sig­nif­i­cant to Sher­rie Auen, trustee of the Auen Foun­da­tion, and Catharine Reed, senior pro­gram offi­cer of the foun­da­tion, because one of their name­sake pup­pies grad­u­at­ed with a visu­al­ly impaired human companion.

In recog­ni­tion of their gen­eros­i­ty, the Auen/Reed fam­i­ly was giv­en the hon­or of nam­ing the pup­pies when they were born in the San­ford J. Reed (Sandy) Nurs­ery at GDD. The nurs­ery was ded­i­cat­ed in mem­o­ry of Sandy Reed in June 2021.

This grad­u­a­tion was very spe­cial to us because Reed is the first pup­py we have named that is going into guide dog ser­vice,” said Catharine Reed. “The fact that he was born in the nurs­ery named in hon­or of Sandy is espe­cial­ly mean­ing­ful, and then for him to find a serendip­i­tous match with a young man like Dal­las, is joy­ous in the most pro­found way.”

The ded­i­ca­tion of the nurs­ery in 2021 was also pup­py hand-out day at GDD. The lit­ter of 8‑week-old stan­dard poo­dles, which includ­ed Reed, was ready to move to homes of vol­un­teer pup­py rais­ers for 18–24 months. After that, Reed and the oth­er dogs in the lit­ter received 6–8 months of spe­cial­ized guide dog train­ing from guide dog mobil­i­ty instruc­tors. Addi­tion­al­ly, the dogs had to pass exten­sive med­ical exam­i­na­tions before meet­ing the qual­i­fi­ca­tions of a guide dog. GDD train­ers then worked to find the best match han­dler for Reed. GDD noti­fied Dal­las Mata­moros that they had select­ed a dog to fit his needs. Then, Mata­moros came to GDD’s White­wa­ter cam­pus, where he and Reed spent four weeks train­ing together.

Guide Dogs of the Desert is tru­ly amaz­ing because Reed real­ly is the best match for me,” said Mata­moros, who lost com­plete vision after a trau­mat­ic brain injury caused by a car acci­dent. “I am grate­ful for every­one at this school for the incred­i­ble work they do to help oth­ers, like me.”

Not only has Reed giv­en Mata­moros more free­dom and mobil­i­ty, but Mata­moros said Reed pro­vides emo­tion­al sup­port that fuels his con­fi­dence. Since Reed has been by his side, Mata­moros said pre­vi­ous debil­i­tat­ing headaches have subsided.

Mata­moros and Reed are in the Win­ter 2024 class of grad­u­ates at GDD, which is an accred­it­ed guide dog school by the Inter­na­tion­al Guide Dog Fed­er­a­tion. Since 1972, hun­dreds of client/dog teams have grad­u­at­ed from GDD. Clients incur no cost to receive and train with a guide dog because of the gen­eros­i­ty of donors.

In 2019, the Auen Foun­da­tion learned of GDD’s goal to bring the breed­ing pro­gram in-house. The Foun­da­tion pro­vid­ed a $50,000 gift to help get the nurs­ery start­ed. Short­ly after loved ones lost Sandy Reed in June 2020, many donat­ed more than $10,000 to GDD in his mem­o­ry. Then, in July 2020, the remain­ing fund­ing need­ed to com­plete the nurs­ery was donat­ed exclu­sive­ly from the Auen Foun­da­tion and the H.N. and Frances C. Berg­er Foun­da­tion. Addi­tion­al gen­er­ous dona­tions in Sandy’s hon­or came in at the nurs­ery ded­i­ca­tion to sup­port its ongo­ing operations.

This is a full-cir­cle sto­ry,” said Auen, who adopt­ed Reed’s moth­er, Pat­ty, after she was retired from the breed­ing pro­gram. “It’s reward­ing to see the nurs­ery named after Sandy help­ing anoth­er young per­son live a more full life, with the help of a guide dog com­pan­ion. We’re hap­py that guide dog is Reed.”

The on-site nurs­ery allows pup­pies, like Reed and his lit­ter­mates, to begin their guide dog jour­ney in a safe, stress-free envi­ron­ment with around-the-clock atten­tion by staff and vol­un­teers. To help them become bet­ter guide dogs, the pup­pies are accli­mat­ed to humans by being han­dled from birth. GDD main­tains detailed records about each pup­py begin­ning imme­di­ate­ly after they are born includ­ing their activ­i­ty and vocal lev­els, which open their eyes first, and more.

We’ve always thought of the San­ford J. Reed Nurs­ery as a place syn­ony­mous with pos­si­bil­i­ties, which are com­ing to fruition with Guide Dog Reed’s grad­u­a­tion,” said Robert Maher, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of GDD.

To learn more about rais­ing a guide dog pup­py or con­tribut­ing to the orga­ni­za­tion, which has been help­ing visu­al­ly impaired stu­dents find inde­pen­dence and com­pan­ion­ship through ser­vice dogs for more than 50 years, go to www.guidedogsofthedesert.org.