President Bush’s (41) Service Dog, Sully

Former President Bush's service dog, Sully, who accompanied him during the last several months of his life.

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Former President Bush's service dog, Sully, who accompanied him during the last several months of his life.

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Dogs have long been humans’ best friends, and there was no exception with former President George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States, and his service dog, Sully. The two-year-old yellow Labrador had caught many people’ eyes when he stood watch in front of President Bush’s casket before the funeral on December 1st, 2018. Sully accompanied President Bush the whole time, including on the airplane from Washington, D.C. to Texas, and even during his funeral. President Bush (Bush 41) was buried at the presidential library in Texas, alongside his wife, Barbara. Sully did a remarkable job both during the time that President Bush was alive and also on the last shift of his job with the president’s remains.

Sully came to President Bush from America’s VetDogs after the former first lady, Barbara Bush, passed away in April 2018. America’s VetDogs, which is a nonprofit that provides service dogs for people with disabilities. Sully was especially suited for President Bush because he was trained to help people who are in wheelchairs; Bush 41 was in a wheelchair towards the end of his life as his health declined. To help Bush 41, Sully performed a long list of jobs. (See list below.) He could do tasks like opening doors, turning off lights, and even answering a ringing phone by pushing a button.

When Sully first arrived at former President Bush’s home in June 2018, Bush 41 posted on Twitter, “A great joy to welcome home the newest member of our family, ‘Sully,’ a beautiful — and beautifully trained — lab from @America’s VetDogs. Could not be more grateful, especially for their commitment to our veterans.” (www.bbc.com) Since President Bush passed away, Sully has continued in his role as a remarkable service dog for wounded soldiers’ therapy.

Sully is named after a famous pilot, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who landed a US Airways jet on the Hudson River in 2009, saving all 155 passengers and crew aboard. Among the service dogs, Sully was particularly well trained. He was prepared to be not only a service dog but also a guide dog and a therapy dog. A guide dog is used for enhancing people’s mobility, primarily people with vision disabilities. Therapy dogs help people with post-traumatic stress disorder by helping to keep them calm and relaxed.

Below is a list of tasks that Sully was trained to perform, according to an article in CNN News:

  • Open and hold doors by hitting a button or pulling on a leash.
  • Push a button to turn on and turn off lights.
  • Get help if their owner has a seizure, by hitting an alarm system button to alert first responders or anyone available to help.
  • Reposition their owner if they fall, and eventually help them sit back up.
  • Retrieve items as small as a credit card or as large as a dropped support cane.
  • Wake up their human from a horrible nightmare.
  • Brace and support their owner when standing or walking up and down the stairs.
  • Answer a ringing phone by pushing a button.

For Bush 41, Sully was an essential part of life, though their time together was short. Veterans serve our country when we need them the most, so it’s comforting to know that organizations, such as America’s VetDogs, are returning the favor and helping our disabled vets when they are most in need.

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