Goodbye, Seymour: Santa Fe Campus Remembers “Library Dog”
November 1, 2018 | By Eve Tolpa
St. John’s lost a beloved community member this past week. Seymour the library dog was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer and died at home on October 27. He had been an integral member of the Santa Fe campus community since 2010.
Seymour came to campus by way of Assistance Dogs of the West (ADW) and was trained to work. While assistance dogs’ varied personalities and temperaments make them suited to different types of tasks, Seymour was “a very calm dog,” according to Meem Library Director Jennifer Sprague.
Sprague solidified the idea to get an assistance dog for the library when she began renting a casita from ADW’s executive director. After writing a proposal and having it approved by the campus instruction committee, she met 2-year-old Seymour, who had already finished his training. Different dogs came to visit the library and “interview” for the position, but, says Sprague, “the founder of ADW decided that Seymour would be the perfect library dog, and she was right.”
After Sprague did training at ADW and passed a public access test with Seymour, he began his job in November 2010. He was known as a facility dog, meaning he was not tied simply to one person, but to the library environment. While he spent most of his days and all of his nights with Sprague, it was important to her that he be available to the whole community—students, faculty, staff, and visitors.
“People would come and ask to see him outside of my office,” she says. “Seymour was doing it on his own, and I wanted him to do it on his own.”
Still, Sprague and Seymour certainly had a special relationship.
“Some people say that I was the dog’s handler, but that’s not quite descriptive of the relationship Seymour and I had,” she says. “I was his person. We were just a pair.”
Library work-study participant Bel Edstrom (SF21) recalls her own interactions with Seymour.
“It was like petting a bear, and I so looked forward to my shifts at the library when I knew the big goofy dog was going to be snoring in the back room,” she says. “His presence calmed and brought joy, and he took much longer than needed to leave at the end of his work day. He had to stop and say hello to anyone who so much as looked his way.”
This past April, Jennifer suggested to student Rebecca Sprague (SF19)—no relation—that the Visual Arts Study Group honor Seymour with a special project.
“We did a session where we drew him for his tenth birthday. More people came out for him than for the naked ladies,” Rebecca says with a laugh, referring to the models that the study group usually draws.
The resulting works of art got handed over to the library, where they were displayed in the lobby. Then Jennifer Sprague, along with fellow librarians and graphic designer Melissa Latham-Stevens, picked the ones that would be suitable to print on bookmarks.
“On Seymour’s tenth birthday [May 1], I walked around campus with Seymour and passed out his bookmarks,” she says.
After that, she kept them at the at library circulation desk, adding, “We’ve started a Little Free Library in the parking lot at the Atalaya trailhead, and we’ve been putting Seymour bookmarks into [those] free books.”
The location of that free library is fitting, considering one lesser-known side of Seymour’s personality.
“People who interacted with him here on campus would see him as being very calm and slow, a very gentle, gentle soul, which he was,” says Sprague. “But he spent a lot of time outdoors hiking with me. He was a true mountain dog. He loved streams, playing in snow, running around, rolling around. You’d never guess that the calm, mellow Seymour would be like that.”
Since Seymour’s passing, Sprague has been contacted by numerous people expressing their condolences. When she first introduced Seymour to the community, she had no idea how far-reaching his impact would be. These past few days, she has received kind notes from members of the campus community, alumni who still cherish their time with Seymour, people who knew Seymour only through social media, parents of former students, and others.
“Seymour had no idea how wonderful he was,” she says. “He was a wise soul who simply and effortlessly enjoyed living and loving.”
Additional reporting by Aviral Chawla (SF21).