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Moira and Van

Meet Graduate Moira

Moira sits with her arm around yellow lab Van who has head tilted slightly towards herGraduate Team: Moira and Van
About the Team: Van, a male yellow lab is Moira’s 6th guide dog, 1st from Guiding Eyes
Location: Washington, District of Columbia
Training: May 2024 On-Campus

Moira earned her bachelor’s degree in economics and international relations from American University and her graduate degree in Public Administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She has worked in various government agencies including the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the Departments of Commerce and Energy. While working in Energy, she applied to the Brookings Institute for a fellowship and was accepted, enabling her to work on Capitol Hill and learn about the inner workings of government. In 2012 she retired from the Department of Health and Human Services, following 35 years of public service. Moira was born on Long Island but before reaching adulthood, she had moved with her family to various foreign countries while growing up, experiencing life in Spain, Laos, and the Philippines. Moira was diagnosed with Usher’s Syndrome at the age of 15 and lost all her vision and much of her hearing, although she has since had a successful cochlear implant in one ear. Among her many accomplishments, Moira worked as an aide for a United States Senator. After being denied access to the Senate floor with her guide dog in 1997, she successfully fought for her civil rights and contributed to a resolution to amend the rules to allow service dogs and assistive technology on the Senate floor. Moira is involved with the Foundation Fighting Blindness, an agency whose mission is to help with the prevention, treatment, and cure of blinding diseases. She has been married for twenty-three years to her husband, Cristophe, who is a recently retired educator.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Van loves to climb up on my lap. My previous guide dogs, although affectionate, were not as demonstrative. Van really lives to show his love. When working he is always level-headed and wants to please. Richard and Barbara Katz, from Richmond, Virginia, were his puppy raisers and really instilled good house manners in Van.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes?  “They accepted my application very quickly. I am thankful because I was familiar with having guide dog support for many years. Guiding Eyes was an immediate match as far as I was concerned because I liked the scale of their program. I had only five members in my class. Following the on-site training, they provided excellent training at home. I am extremely grateful for receiving such a well-trained guide dog.” 

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “I can’t put it into words. It is extremely valuable to me to be totally independent. Although a cane is very helpful as an initial step toward independence, it does not have a brain, as opposed to a guide dog. In 2016 I traveled by myself to Italy successfully with a guide dog. My husband and I are both planning and looking forward to international travel again, including visiting France and Bohemia, with Van by my side.”

Were there any training highlights? “Michelle was my primary instructor. Melinda was my field representative. Both of them were very professional and helpful. I spent a day of training in New York City and Van blew me away. He was focused, and assertive, and took charge in the busy and very demanding city environment. Also, Chef Rob and his staff served very good meals, with no two alike.”

Meet Guide Dog Van

DOB:  6/9/2021
Litter ID: 2V21
Color/Breed:  Yellow/Labrador
Gender: Male
Brood: Piper
Stud: Bosley
Littermates: Viviann, Valdez, Vader, Vancouver, Valentine, Virgil
Region:  Richmond
Regional Puppy Instructor: Madeline Bruggeman
Puppy Raiser:  Richard & Barbara Katz
Facebook: Richmond Puppy Raisers

From the Puppy Raiser…

Van is our sixth dog we have raised for this amazing organization. Van is always full of life and ready to go. One of his favorite activities was diving into the swimming pool and make the biggest splash. At home he didn’t go too far without his favorite blanket. We wish Van and his partner great success. ~ Barbara and Richard Katz 

Photos of the Team…