A Eulogy for Carson
If you and I have met in the last three years, you never got to meet my previous Seeing Eye dog, Carson. If you did meet Carson, you’ll probably remember him as this rambunctious black lab who never, EVER grew out of his puppy stage.
Three years ago, Carson hung up the harness and retired. Today, I got word that his adoptive family had to make the difficult choice to have him put to sleep. I hope you’ll indulge me with this eulogy for Carson… and a bit of a background story…
When I was in the 4th grade, my family moved from St. Louis to High Hill, Missouri. One of my first friends at Jonesburg Elementary School was this funny kid named John Woods. And by funny, I mean sense of humor. This summer, John coordinated our 20 year class reunion… and he’s just as funny now as he was then. But, when John and his family adopted Carson in his retirement, we laid jokes aside. Carson served as my guide for over eight years. He was in my wedding, was there a time or two when I nearly died (not in traffic) and was my only roommate through the first five years of his working life with me. We were buds. I wasn’t going to allow Carson to be adopted by those who didn’t already love him. Carson was really adaptable, so I didn’t worry about his adjustment, I just wanted to know he was in good hands.
In September of 2002, I was 27, a bachelor and just at the beginning of my professional life. During my first day or two of orientation at The Seeing Eye in Morristown, NJ, I stressed how I needed a dog who could handle every kind of environment; airplanes, hotels, bars, restaurants, concerts, high schools, colleges, camping-everything. A day later, Carson came bounding into my life…just as puppy as puppy can be. He was 19 months old and “fully trained”…I put that in quotes because Carson was just such a handful. I don’t mean the first week or month, but it took him a full year before he really settled down.
When we’d walk down the street, Carson was so excited his paws would literally do the Scooby Doo move where he couldn’t get traction. A month or two after I got him, a few friends came over one night for dinner and socializing. While we cooked dinner in the kitchen, Carson was in the living room…tearing a hole in my friend’s brand spankin’ new, $300 Banana Republic winter coat. Apparently, eating coats was a pastime because, a year or so later, I was out with buds at a favorite local watering hole. One guy laid his vintage black leather jacket over the back of his chair, but it slipped off. Next thing we know, Carson is curled up on it on the floor. But, it being night, in a dark bar and a black dog on a black leather jacket? Yeah, what we didn’t know is that he was, once again, chewing a hole in it.
In my back yard, Carson showed he was a true Labrador. Like, he would play fetch until my arm got so tired of throwing his toy that I, not him, had to give up.
Carson got to see a WHOLE lot of America, too. Thinking of the corners and edges here, but Carson went from Seattle to San Diego to Miami to New Hampshire. Toronto to the Texas/Mexico border, High Hill, MO, population 250 to New York City. Business meetings to hippie hangouts.In the POS cars of my friends to stretch limos. This dog did everything.
Funny story…in St. Louis, there’s a restaurant and B&B called The Lemp Mansion. It’s also supposedly one of the most haunted places in America, according to paranormal investigators and stuff. The first time I visited The Lemp, I was interested to see if the old rumor about dogs being able to see ghosts was valid…but then, I remembered something: this is Carson. He’s more likely to want to go play with the ghosts than be afraid of them!
He easily transitioned into married life and relocation to Florida. My Masonic Lodge, Eola #207, even gave him a Masonic apron of his own!
When Carson retired in late 2010, everyone asked, “Isn’t that hard to retire him?” Duh! But, retiring a service dog, in my experience, is like dropping your kid off at college for the first time. Is it sad? Will you miss him/her? Of course! But, you also know it’s the best thing. And, after dragging me all around the country for eight years, I was really glad to see Carson settle into life as a farm dog. He got to wander between John’s house and his parents’ home just a short drive away. John’s family even fed him marshmallows – something he would never, EVER get as a working dog – but became one of his most favorite things!
Earlier this year, Marvelyne and I went to see Carson one last time. I feel I did most of my grieving when he retired, but it was important to The Hottness knowing he was getting quite elderly. In June, I hugged Carson for the last time, hugged John and his family good bye and came home to Florida. I knew it would be the last time I saw Carson.
Today, I’m a mixture of happy and sad. Sad because Carson is crossing the proverbial rainbow bridge, but happy he is now pain free and got to live the best life any dog could ask for. Thank you John and family for giving me the beautiful gift of knowing Carson was loved.
Tonight, I can only hope he and Dasher are running free in whatever doggy afterlife you believe in.