A moving photo showing Sully, former President George H.W. Bush’s service dog, lying before his flag-draped casket, has gone viral.
Bush’s spokesman, Jim McGrath, tweeted the photo of the somber looking Sully loyally lying before the casket. “Mission complete. #Remembering41,” McGrath wrote. George H.W. Bush died on November 30, 2018, at the age of 94. A series of memorial services and events remembering the former president will take place over the week of December 3.
Sully was then brought to Bush’s casket as it lay in state in Washington D.C.
Here’s what you need to know about Sully, Bush’s service dog:
1. Sully’s Name is Sully H.W. Bush
CNN ran a story about the dog when Bush first got the pooch in June 2018. The network described the animal as “Sully HW Bush, a yellow Labrador service dog for former President George HW Bush.” Sure enough, Sully’s Instagram page – yes, the canine has one – refers to the animal as Sully H.W. Bush.
“A kinder, gentler labrador— making my forever home at Walker’s Point 🐾 🇺🇸 #AmericasVetDogs,” the profile for the dog reads.
According to CNN, Sully “can perform a two-page list of commands, including answering the phone and fetching items.”
Bush wrote about the dog on Twitter. “A great joy to welcome home the newest member of our family, ‘Sully,’ a beautiful — and beautifully trained — lab from @AmericasVetDogs. Could not be more grateful, especially for their commitment to our veterans,” he wrote.
2. Sully’s Instagram Page Calls the Dog George H.W. Bush’s Best Friend
The Instagram page for Sully also contains the casket photo, as well as other photos of the dog in action, with a Christmas ribbon, and even going to vote with George H.W. Bush.
“Assisting with voting must be easier with thumbs. It was very nice of Secretary James Baker to help my best friend cast his vote. They didn’t even let me push the button,” reads that post from Houston Texas.
One photo shows Sully next to George H.W. Bush’s sock-clad legs. “Naturally as a lab I am a fan of all Sox – but I like these ones the best. GO STROS! My best friend and I will be watching from my new digs in Houston,” says the Instagram post from October 17, 2018, just over a month before Bush died.
Other photos show Sully reading Millie’s Book (Millie was the Bush clan’s previous and more famous dog) and wearing a handkerchief bearing George H.W.’s slogan, “Thousand points of light.”
Sully didn’t get to meet Barbara Bush because she passed away before George H.W. Bush got the dog.
3. A Veterans’ Organization Gave the Dog to Bush
The organization VetDogs gifted Sully to the former president.
“America’s VetDogs is honored to place a specially-trained service dog with the 41st president of the United States, George H.W. Bush,” a June 2018 press release says.
“Sully, a 2-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever, was specifically matched to provide support and companionship to Mr. Bush in his daily activities. America’s VetDogs was recommended to the former president through VetDogs’ relationship with Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD.”
“America’s VetDogs’ trainers and staff worked closely with the president’s team to find the best match,” said John Miller, president and CEO of America’s VetDogs, in the press release. “We are excited to work with President Bush and utilize this opportunity to shine a light on the services America’s VetDogs provides veterans and first responders to live a life without boundaries.”
4. The Dog Is Named After the Hero Pilot Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger
According to VetDogs, Sully is named after former airline pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III, who “became famous for landing a damaged passenger jet on the Hudson River in 2009.”
Sully the dog “was raised and trained through the VetDogs prison puppy program, in which inmates raise future service dogs until the dog is about 15 months old. Inmate handlers begin working with puppies on housebreaking, obedience, standardized commands, and teaching the three foundations of service dog tasks: retrieve, tug, and push – all part of the VetDogs training curriculum,” the press release states.
“Once a dog returns back VetDogs’ Smithtown campus, training begins and specific tasks are fine-tuned and refined for an individual’s particular needs.”
According to the press release, America’s VetDogs “trains and places guide dogs for individuals who are blind or have low vision; hearing dogs for those who have lost their hearing later in life; service dogs for those with other physical disabilities; physical and occupational therapy dogs to aid in the rehabilitation process in military and VA hospitals, and PTSD service dogs to help mitigate the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.”
America’s VetDogs service dogs “can be trained to do many tasks. They include retrieving items as small as a credit card to an object as large as a dropped support cane, opening and closing doors, waking their handler from a nightmare, getting help or pushing an emergency button, bracing and supporting their handler when standing or walking up and down stairs, and many more.”
The organization is a non-profit that “has trained and placed guide and service dogs to provide independence, enhanced mobility, and companionship to veterans with disabilities from all eras. In 2015, VetDogs opened its programs to first responders, including fire, police, and emergency medical personnel.”
5. George H.W. Bush Was in a Wheelchair Due to Parkinson’s
George H.W. Bush needed Sully’s help for several reasons. One was likely the loss of his wife, Barbara, and the dog provided companionship, although the former president obviously didn’t lack for visitors. In addition, Bush had health issues that landed him in a wheelchair before he died. He was 94-years-old, and he lived longer than any other president in U.S. history.
Bush dealt with a series of health issues related to his advanced age over recent years, reported NBC. He had “a form of Parkinson’s disease and uses a motorized scooter or a wheelchair for mobility,” the network reported, and he “was hospitalized in Maine in 2015 after falling at his summer home and breaking a bone in his neck.” He was also hospitalized for shortness of breath in 2014, and he was in intensive care two years before that because of bronchitis, reported NBC News.
Bush suffered from Vascular Parkinsonism. Vascular Parkinsonism is an “atypical Parkinsonism” that has Parkinson’s-like symptoms, but it doesn’t share the same cause as Parkinson’s, according to the Baylor College of Medicine. You can read more about Bush’s struggle with Vascular Parkinsonism here.