Over the weekend, a photo of George H.W. Bush's service dog went viral. The photo showed Sully, a two-year-old yellow Labrador, laying in front of Bush's flag-draped coffin, looking sullen.
Bush's longtime aide and friend, Jim McGrath, posted the picture on Twitter, which then blew up across the internet.
So how did the liberal online magazine Slate respond to the moving photograph? By writing a piece headlined: "Don’t Spend Your Emotional Energy on Sully H.W. Bush."
[I]t’s a bit demented to project soul-wrenching grief onto a dog’s decision to lie down in front of a casket. Is Sully “heroic” for learning to obey the human beings who taught him to perform certain tasks? Does the photo say anything special about this dog’s particular loyalty or judgment, or is he just … there? Also, if dogs are subject to praise for obeying their masters, what do we do about the pets who eat their owners’ dead (or even just passed-out) bodies?
The photograph, in other words, is not proof that Sully is a particularly “good boy” or that “we don’t deserve dogs,” as countless swooning tweets put it on Monday. On its own, it says almost nothing other than the fact that Sully was, at one point in the same room as the casket of his former boss. This is simply a photograph of a dog doing something dogs love to do: Lie down. The frenzy around it captures something humans love to do, too: Project our own emotional needs onto animals.
Needless to say, Slate got absolutely shredded for the pointless piece.