Update from the GDB Leadership Team:
When shelter in place started, all breeding was paused for 2 months (end of March, all April and 1st part of May). And, with breeding planned months in advance, the Puppy Center on our California Campus was still home to 170 moms, babies and older puppies. The births continued through the beginning of May resulting in mom and puppy care required through the end of June. And, with the breeding pause, in July there were no moms or puppies on campus enabling the Canine Welfare Neonatal team to focus on creating additional safety protocols and further developing the new Puppy Center. At the end of May, we began breeding 4 litters/month and have welcomed 27 new litters to date. With recalls starting back up, we are excited to ramp up breeding numbers in May to pre-COVID levels in order to provide dogs to match with clients at the end of FY22 and all of FY23.
GDB is committed to giving every dog in our program the best chance to succeed and we want to honor the significant investment our puppy raisers have made in loving, socializing, and developing our dogs, especially during this unparalleled time. Because our operations have been significantly impacted, this has meant the puppy raisers have kept guide dog puppies in their homes for a longer period of time and extended their efforts to prepare each dog for service. Our dogs are typically between 15-18 months when they are recalled and enter training. Due to the limitations on our ability to operate during the pandemic, however, the average age of dogs currently coming in for recall is now closer to 22-26 months. As such, there will be a period where dogs may be up to three years old when issued as guides. During this time, we will be recalling the oldest dogs first and anticipate a return to a recall age of 15-18 months by the end of the calendar year.
GDB is a large, complex organization and we are excited that our operations are starting to return to pre-COVID levels. This means a return to many of the processes that help create a stable foundation for serving clients. The following are some of the exciting elements of returning to full operations:
- Regularly scheduled recalls at both campuses
- A standard dog training schedule and dogs normally moving through the training cycle including the completion of Phase Reports
- Regularly scheduled back-to-back classes with smaller numbers of clients in each class
- Staggered class schedules between the two campuses which facilitates smoother recall coordination
- A higher number of in-homes occurring throughout the United States, which will be overseen by instructional staff and Field Service Managers. These in-homes will occur in areas of the country that are within driving distance of our FSMs.
- A virtual meet and greet between the client and their guide’s puppy raisers via Zoom as the team concludes their training.
These efforts are intended to help us meet our goal of serving the same number of clients we usually serve in the second half of the year.
Orientation and Mobility Immersion classes will also continue on campus and in surrounding communities. We are currently limited in our capacity to serve OMI clients now because our O&M partner agencies are still not fully operating. However, we are excited to be training as many clients as we can internally and expect our O&M partners to be back to full operations shortly.
We are thrilled to return to a level of operations that is closer to normal using all the creative innovations and learnings that have been developed over the past 11 months.
Bringing Back Volunteers
To support efforts to move our mission forward as described above, we will be bringing back a limited number of volunteers to the Oregon and California campuses in the coming weeks. Jennifer Bernstein, Volunteer Engagement Manager, has been working with all staff who are responsible for volunteers and they have determined which volunteers are needed on campus first. Those volunteers will be included in all GDB safety protocols including COVID testing every two weeks.