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Black & white image of an old school bus that reads "Guide Dogs for the Blind - San Rafael, CA" on the side with the old shepherd logo

GDB's History

Learn how it all began.

Celebrating 80 Years!

2022 marks the 80th anniversary of Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) helping its clients live the lives they want to live. More than 16,000 guide teams have graduated from GDB since it was founded in 1942. GDB not only improves mobility for its clients, but it also furthers inclusion and advocates for policy reforms that change how the world views blindness.

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.

Merrihew and Donaldson incorporated our school 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, who had been rescued from a Pasadena dog pound, was one of the first dogs trained. Blondie was later paired with Sgt. Leonard Foulk, the first serviceman to graduate from the new school.

In 1947, GDB moved to our present location in San Rafael, California, about 20 miles north of San Francisco. In order to meet the increasing demand for our services, we opened a second campus in Boring, Oregon (25 miles east of Portland), in the Fall of 1995. The first class of students graduated from the Pacific Northwest campus in October of that year.

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