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Tuesday, Jul 23, 2024

When a Dog Is More Than A Best Friend

Guide Dogs of America is building a new facility in the Valley, but it’s not a doghouse. The non-profit owns 7.5 acres in Sylmar where it is constructing a 15,900-square-foot building for education and outreach for the blind and visually impaired. Some of the space will provide mock rooms or public settings where clients can receive training with their guide dogs. “Right now we don’t have a classroom setting,” said Lorri Bernson, media and community liaison for the group. “Some of our (blind) students are in college, some work at a desk, and we could have that kind of simulation so we don’t have to go offsite for everything that the student needs to learn.” The project is being substantially funded by the estate of Phil Singer, a longtime Guide Dogs supporter, who died a few years ago, and his widow Macki Singer. It will be named the Phil and Macki Singer Education Center. A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for April 13, with completion of the project in June 2015. Bernson did not disclose the cost of the project. Dog training is a capital intensive process. The group states the price tag to breed, train and match one dog to a new owner runs about $42,000. That includes veterinarian costs as well as accommodations for the recipients, who spend three to four weeks at the facility before taking their dog home. Service: Bernson, dog. Every year the organization graduates up to 55 teams at a cost of up to $2.3 million with all costs paid by grants and donations from foundations, individuals, estates and corporations, including Bank of America Corp. Jennifer Luce, a San Diego architect who has worked with Nissan Design America and Walt Disney Co.’s Imagineering division, said she designed the building with the visually impaired in mind. “The roof resembles airplane wings taking off in flight, which is a metaphor for freedom and independence, feelings that students feel when they leave the institute with their service dogs,” she said. – John Saringo-Rodriguez

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