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Why a San Marcos author is glad he went blind

Mark Carlson put his guide dog, Saffron, in charge of not only his sight, but also his social life.

SAN MARCOS, Calif. — A San Marcos author says he is glad he went blind nearly thirty years ago. In this Zevely Zone, I had the pleasure of meeting Mark Carlson and his best friend, a guide dog named Saffron.

"Saffron, come on baby," said Mark Carlson as he and his guide dog gave me a tour of the home that Mark has never seen. "Just think of it as you've just switched off the lights," said Mark who walks through his house with confidence. 

"Everything in this room I have never seen," said Mark. "I don't even know what color the carpets are." I told Mark the carpets were brown, and he said, "I was rather hoping for orange shag but then again I was born in the 70's."

Credit: Mark Carlson

Mark does his own laundry, dishes and housekeeping and he'll even make you a cup of coffee in seconds. "Here you go," said Mark handing me a cup. "Really when you think about being blind it is like living in a house where the lights have been turned off," said Mark.

He says if he were to stare at a bright window, he could only detect light. Mark had vision until his mid-30's. His father and brother both suffered from Retinitis Pigmentosa. Mark too went blind at the age of 35. "I started noticing that my vision was closing in and the tunnel vision was getting tighter and tighter," said the 61-year-old.

Credit: Mark Carlson

Using a system called Pen Friend, Mark has catalogued most of his belongings with labels. When he scans the labels, the device tells him what they are such as his extensive DVD collection.

In the kitchen, stickers help him navigate his appliances. "This is one, three, seven, nine," he said while showing me the stickers on his microwave. His clothes have labels too. "I prefer to do it myself because for years I would get dressed and my wife would say you're not going out like that are you and I would say no honey I had not planned to," said Mark.

Credit: Mark Carlson

In 2020, Mark's wife of 25 years, Jane, died from chronic health problems and a heart attack. "Devastating," said Mark. "I depended on her more than I realized."

Mark had to learn how live on his own. "It took me awhile to get used to the angles," he said using his hand to guide him as he walked through his home. "Occasionally I'll crash into a wall because I was pointed the wrong way," said Mark. "My forehead and my shins a testament to occasional collisions."

Mark says he misses seeing things. He loved gazing at the stars, watching sunsets and seeing his own artwork which he hasn't seen in almost 30 years. "Yeah, I do. But I know exactly what they look like. I remember the Lincoln portrait very well," said Mark. He is blind. He has a hearing disability. He is a guy. "Yeah, those are my three disabilities. Being a guy is much harder to deal with than being blind," laughed Mark.

Mark loves humor and writing. "This is my first novel," said Mark. "Vengeance of a Last Roman Legion." This book called Out of the Darkness is part one of a four-part series. "I am very proud of it," said Mark who has written 16 books.

His biggest hit is titled Confessions of a Guide Dog: The Blonde Leading the Blind. "That was my first published book," said Mark. "That was about my first guide dog Musket." He wrote a sequel about his current guide dog named Saffron. That book is titled called Confessions of a Labradiva. "Another Blonde Leading the Blind," laughed Mark.

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Mark is happy to let his guide dogs be in charge of his sight and social life. He says often times, he walks in a room and friends say, "Hey Saffron, how are you? Oh, hello Mark how are you doing. "It's amazing the people these dogs have attracted, we have met people who walked on the moon. Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, Gene Cernan and Alan Bean," said Mark.

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Thanks to his dogs, Mark says he is living a life that is over the moon. "Losing my eyesight was the best thing that could happened. All I did was give up my eyesight but that I gained from it is far more wonderful," said Mark. "They have changed my life." 

Credit: Mark Carlson

For more information about Mark's life and books visit Musketmania.com.  

For a link to Confessions of a Labradiva: Another Blonde Leading the Blind click here.

For a link to Vengeance of a Last Roman Legion: Out of the Darkness click here.

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