Turkey’s first veteran soldier with a guide dog
When my guide dog Kara first entered my life, I could not have anticipated all the experiences we would have and the things we would achieve together. She and I receive many invitations to private events but when we were invited to be co-witnesses at the wedding of a dear friend, we accepted it with great enthusiasm. Taking on this important role at an event so significant to my close friend would be a new first for us and it gave us a great cause for excitement.
The wedding ceremony took place in a club on the coast of the Bosphorus. Kara and I arrived early to explore and fully enjoy the location and as the guests arrived, they would notice us. I overheard people as they pointed us out, saying, “That’s the woman I saw on TV. The guide dog is helping out her blind friend.” As the seats were filled, the movement and commotion grew. Even I started to breathe more quickly as nervousness built ahead of the ceremony. Kara must have sensed how I was feeling since she raised her head to my hand as if to reassure me, saying, “Relax. It’s good that we came.”
The ordained time for the ceremony arrived. The wedding couple walked to the front of the room and the marriage officer spoke up soon after. “Witness Nurdeniz Tuncer,” he said. “Could you also join us at the table?” The invitees seemed surprised to see a female witness along with a guide dog among all the other male witnesses. After asking of the couple’s intentions to marry, the officer spoke to me again, saying, “Are you a witness for this couple?” Kara urged me to speak by pressing her head against my leg and I answered affirmatively.
Each witness had their turn signing the marriage certificate and everyone congratulated the new couple. My thanks and well wishes go out to Dilek Musluoğlu and Ömer Açıkgöz, who were gracious enough to include us in their important event. It was personally meaningful to Kara and I, but I felt it was significant to the whole community. Whether someone is visually impaired or lives with other disabilities, it is important to make them a part of our society, from mundane events like office meetings and college classes to our most sacredly held traditions, like weddings.
I want to share another moment that is very important to me. About a year ago, one of our founders Maggie Moore, who is the wife of the United Kingdom’s former ambassador to Ankara has met Prof. Dr. Aylin Güney Gevrek, who is a deputy dean at Yaşar University. Aylin Güney said his son wanted to donate his dog Bobby to our association as he saw us on the TV program called ChangeMakers. In the following process, Bobby began training in the guide dogs association.
As a result of many preliminary assessments to find the right match, 38-year-old veteran Hasan Arısoy became Bobby’s match. Arısoy survived a mine explosion while on active duty in Çukurca near the eastern province of Hakkari in 2010, which caused him to lose his right hand and his ability to see. They now live together in Adana.
Currently, there are two guide dog mobility trainers at the Guide Dogs Association, which has been active for over three and a half years. We are hoping to expand the number of guide dogs thanks to the dedicated work of our trainers.
* President of the Turkish Guide Dog Association