As millions of Americans mourned the death of former President George H.W. Bush, there was one thing that just about everyone could agree on, for once: Sully, the former president’s service dog, is a hero and loyal good boy.
Slate, of course, saw things differently, publishing an article titled “Don’t Spend Your Emotional Energy on Sully H.W. Bush,” raining on everyone’s parade by saying Sully was only with Bush for six months and was not a “lifelong companion.” Sully is just two years old.
And yes, his name comes from Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III, who safely landed a plane in the Hudson River in 2009 after it lost power leaving LaGuardia Airport.
Even though the photo that drew tears across the country was captured, “Mission complete,” Sully’s mission is far from complete.
Sully is a service dog, so I knew he wouldn’t retire or quit after Bush’s death, but for some reason, no one seemed to write anything about where this loyal companion would go next, or who he would help.
Thankfully, CNN reporter Andrea Diaz wrote a touching article on Monday about America’s VetDogs, “a nonprofit that provides service dogs at no cost to veterans, active-duty service members and first responders with disabilities.” The article briefly mentioned where Sully would work next.
“[America’s VetDogs] also train physical and occupational therapy dogs to work with the recently returned wounded at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, which is where Sully will go next,” Diaz wrote.
Sully isn’t done giving, and will take his exceptional skills to those in need.
America’s VetDogs received a request on behalf of Bush after his wife, Barbara, passed away earlier this year, Diaz reported.
"We immediately thought of Sully, we knew he was the right dog for the job specially with Mr. Bush being older and in a wheelchair, he needed a dog that would also help him with daily tasks," Brad Hibbard, chief program officer at Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind and America’s VetDogs, told Diaz.
Sully was placed with Bush during the summer, and was able to help the former commander in chief with a number of tasks. The 2-year-old yellow lab was exceptionally trained to be a guide dog, service dog, and a therapy dog.
"Not only is he good at retrieving things, he helped the President by opening doors, knew when to get assistance from someone else, and knew when Bush needed comfort, so he would place his head on his lap," Hibbard told CNN.
Guide dogs help enhance mobility for those who are blind or have limited vision. Service dogs help those with missing limbs or are in wheelchairs by fetching things, opening doors, and helping when their person falls. Therapy dogs help those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Sully was all three.
This top doggo cost America’s VetDogs about $50,000 to breed, raise, train, and be placed, according to Diaz. Remember, no one who needs one of these service animals has to pay for them. The organization currently houses 80 dogs and graduates 130 dogs each years.
“The dogs start off being trained in prisons -- 13 facilities have programs around the nation -- where inmates teach the 10-week-old pups basic commands,” Diaz wrote. “After initial training, the pups travel to a 10-acre facility in Smithtown, New York, where the training continues. They are kept freshly groomed at all times, and fed delicious meals made with special dietary supplements by a trained chef.”
God speed, Sully.