by Dodie Cross
Things were certainly going to the dogs during this event, in fact they seemed to be ubiquitous.
Over one hundred supporters and 12 guide dogs attended the Paws For Independence Dinner at the palatial Spencer’s at the Mountain Restaurant in Palm Springs.
Guests were greeted at the entrance by student services coordinator Linda Samulski and her guide dog Lara, instantly making the $200 ticket cost seem like a bargain.
Guests and their dogs were ushered to the main hall, where John Gallager entertained on the piano. Servers walked among the crowd, adroitly stepping aside for the dogs, with trays of Cosmopolitans, while the bartenders were busy serving hosted drinks, along with a cheese and fruit bar.
The dogs, some in service, some as ambassadors, were amazing; each one standing or lying next to their owner, and not a bark was heard the entire night, obviously because of the socializing they received during training. As guests began telling me about these incredible canines and their owners, I was taken with the love that they show for each other. I wanted to adopt them all.
Board member and former Palm Springs police chief Gary Jeandron served as master of ceremonies and kept the audience laughing as he followed a script written by board member and event planner Sarah Clapp.
Guide Dogs of the Desert board member Dr. Al Milauskas spoke about the effort that goes into training these amazing dogs: It takes about $50,000 for the training and socializing of the dogs from puppyhood to adult, with no cost to the client. Which is why this event is so important!
Milauskas also explained how the puppies were fostered by one family until the age of 18 months, and are then returned to the school for an additional six months of training. At that time the client is paired with the dog and they live together at the school for an additional month, training together.
A scrumptious buffet dinner offered everything that anyone could want, from elegant appetizers to a carving station serving Tuscan Spiced Angus Beef. To top it all off, there was Spencer’s mouth-watering display of pastries.
Clapp then introduced speaker Phil Weliky and his amazing guide dog Avery. Avery is now retired, having been with Phil since 2006. The two have traveled to such places as New York, Las Vegas and Disneyland. In fact, Phil said, Avery probably has more travel miles than a lot of humans.
In attendance at the event were Debbie and Tom Davis; PSUSD board members Shari Stewart and Richard Clapp. Other board members attending the event were Clark Hallren, Leonard Sigdestad, Cynthia Woods, Vicki Lynes and Patti Craine. Major donors were Tristan and Melissa Milanovich; Harold Matzner; Shellie Reade; Robert Roblee and Ronald Johnson. Clapp said they had raised over $30,000 dollars at the event and received eight new sponsored puppies.
Guide Dogs of the Desert provides custom trained guide dogs for the blind and also for those with special needs for their safe mobility, companionship, and independence.
Guide Dogs next event will be “Dog Day Afternoon” to be held at Smoke Tree Ranch on Monday, March 28, 2016, hosted by Yvonne and Steve Maloney. For more information on this amazing group, please contact Sarah Clapp at firstname.lastname@example.org, (760) 329- 6257 or visit them https:// www.guidedogsofthe desert.org