Seymour began his work as the library dog at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico in November 2010. Seymour’s job seems simple: he is available in the library for anyone to pet and cuddle while they read. He is the dependable, tail-wagging friend eager for a belly rub whose happy greetings brighten the days of so many on campus. Yet Seymour’s impact on our community is more nuanced than this.
To understand the importance of Seymour’s role, one needs to be familiar with the St. John’s community. Our students study a rigorous, all-required curriculum that focuses on the Great Books. All classes are discussion-based, so students can’t just passively listen to a professor lecture; students actively engage in conversation and must be prepared, for instance, to translate Ancient Greek, demonstrate a Newtonian proposition, or discuss Aristotle’s concept of a “great soul.” While students find their classes invigorating and inspiring, the intensity of the workload inevitably brings with it some amount of stress. This is when Seymour becomes a lifesaver. He is ready to cuddle no matter if you didn’t do so well on a class demonstration, or your tutor (i.e., professor) didn’t like your essay.
This “academic support” isn’t the only reason Seymour is valued. I often take him with me when running errands on campus, and everyone is always excited to see Seymour. A break from the task at hand to pet a handsome Labrador retriever with caramel-colored eyes can bring a smile to any busy staff member. Prospective students and their parents regularly stop by the library during their tours to meet Seymour—his presence makes the campus seem a bit more inviting to those thinking of living away from home for the first time. Our international students are reassured by the familiarity of a lovable dog as they adjust to a whole new culture. Seymour is also popular with the children of staff and tutors. He has shown many hesitant kids that dogs can be gentle and lovable and playful.
Seymour periodically hosts other ADW dogs that are in training. Our library patrons learn about the various jobs these visiting assistance dogs will do, fostering greater awareness of ADW’s programs. As our patrons fall in love with Seymour’s friends, they also develop great respect for the ways these working dogs help others. People still ask for updates on Russell, Lydia, and the rest of Seymour’s gang.
Perhaps Seymour ‘s greatest gift is his sensitive nature, and true to his name, he is able to “see more” than we humans do. Seymour sees when someone is upset and will try to provide comfort. When one of our students lost a friend, instead of rolling over for his tummy to be rubbed as he normally does, Seymour crawled onto the student’s lap as she pet him and wept. Somehow Seymour always knows when lap therapy is most needed.
What does Seymour do? He loves, he comforts, he makes us laugh, he reminds us that the simplest things bring us joy. He is the purest soul I know, and I am ever so grateful that each day I get to witness the amazing gift he provides to this community. Thank you to ADW for recognizing that Seymour would be the perfect library dog.