Maggie Moore and her beloved guide dog, Star, live at the British Embassy residence in Ankara.
The arrival of Maggie in 2014, together with her husband, HMA Richard Moore, the British Ambassador to Turkey, inspired Istanbul-based lawyer, Nurdeniz Tuncer, who is also visually impaired, to establish the first guide dog association in Turkey.
By October of the same year, she had founded TRKD (Türk Rehber Köpekler Derneği), the Turkish Guide Dogs Association.
Then the next stage began – looking for suitable puppies in Turkey that could eventually become guide dogs. This in turn meant finding someone to become the country’s first trainer. And that is where Ece Öderoğlu enters the story. But lets start at the very beginning…
Guide dog partnerships for Turkey
In Turkey, nearly three quarters of a million people are registered as blind or partially sighted. While the United Kingdom, a country with a similar population, has nearly 5,000 guide dog partnerships for 360,000 of the country’s visually impaired residents, until recently their Turkish counterparts were only able to dream of a highly-trained canine to help them negotiate their way through life.
Star and Maggie steal the show
But then Maggie Moore arrived in Ankara. Touching down in January 2014 with HMA Richard Moore, her husband and the newly appointed British Ambassador to Turkey, she immediately caused a stir. National media was intrigued by the well-groomed couple and Maggie’s blindness. But it was Maggie’s constant companion, a golden labrador guide dog known as Star or Yıldiz hanım, who really stole the show.
The first guide dog trainer in Turkey
The training of the dogs and the people who will benefit from their skills is the responsibility of Ece Önderoğlu, currently Turkey’s one and only trainer…
The plan is for Nurdeniz and Ali Ilhan, parliamentary consultant for Veli Ağbaba, CHP Deputy Chairman and Malatya MP, to become the first two people in Turkey to have guide dog.
High profile Star
Star is still constantly by Maggie’s side and has become one of the highest profile canines in the country. She is certainly the first guide dog to be invited to the Presidential Palace – twice.
Promotion and awareness
Despite their busy schedules, Maggie and Nurdeniz do all they can to promote the association. Recently, together with Ali Ilhan, they went to the UK and while there Nurdeniz spoke at the BBC about Turkey’s Guide Dog Association.
This is only half the story… To read the rest and find out what you can do to help, click on the link for The Guide Istanbul