Main Content

Guide Dog leads his handler around traffic cones.In the beginning...

It all began with a dream—the dream of creating the first guide dog training school on the West Coast. It was a dream shared by Lois Merrihew and Don Donaldson, who volunteered their efforts along with many others. They recognized the need to help wounded servicemen who would return from World War II without their sight. They believed in the potential of dogs to serve as guides for the blind.

Our school was incorporated in May of 1942 and began instruction of students in a rented home in Los Gatos, California, south of San Jose. A German Shepherd named Blondie was one of the first dogs trained. Blondie had been rescued from a Pasadena dog pound. She was later paired with Sgt. Leonard Foulk, the first serviceman to graduate from the new school.


In 1947, the school moved to our present 11-acre location in San Rafael, California, 20 miles north of San Francisco. In October of 1995, we held the first graduation at our new campus in Boring, Oregon, 25 miles east of Portland. We have graduated more than 10,000 teams since our beginnings in 1942.

Both campuses house students in exceptional dormitory facilities which include dining rooms, exercise rooms, libraries, computer rooms and social areas. Both are located near major metropolitan centers, providing graduated training from quiet rural areas to congested city streets and public transit. The dogs and puppies are cared for in meticulous kennels and state-of-the-art veterinary clinics. Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and Labrador Retriever/Golden Retriever crosses are the breeds used. Professional staff and veterinarians nurture, groom, train and prepare the dogs for their futures as guides.