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Sully, George H.W. Bush’s Service Dog, will now help other veterans

By: Laura Goldman From Care2

Mission complete.” Regardless of whether you agreed with President George H.W. Bush’s politics, when you saw that viral photo of his service dog curled up in front of his casket, you probably got a little (or a lot) choked up.

The two-year-old yellow Lab, named Sully H.W. Bush after the hero US Airways pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III, had been by Bush’s side for the past six months. After Bush’s death, Sully seemed to get almost as much media attention as the president himself.

America’s VetDogs provided Sully to Bush. The New York-based nonprofit organization trains and provides service and guide dogs—free of charge—to veterans, active-duty service members and first responders with disabilities.  

Like the other dogs it provides, Sully was initially trained through the VetDogs prison puppy program. In this program, inmate handlers work with young puppies on “housebreaking, obedience, standardized commands, and the three foundations of service dog tasks: retrieve, tug and push,” according to a press release.  

When the dogs are around 15 months old, they return to the VetDogs’ campus in Smithtown, N.Y., where they’re trained to perform specific tasks. Sully can perform two pages’ worth of commands, including retrieving items and even answering the phone. “As one person said, he can do just about anything except make you a martini, but not to worry, he can go get you someone to make you a martini!” Bush spokesman Jim McGrath—who posted the viral photo of Sully lying beside the president’s casket—told CNN in June, when Sully began his work as Bush’s service dog.  

Sully was specifically matched with Bush, who was confined to a wheelchair and had been hospitalized multiple times for a blood infection, low blood pressure and other health conditions. Bush was also grieving the loss of his wife of 73 years, Barbara, who died in April.  

America’s VetDogs said in the press release that it was excited to work with the president and to use the opportunity to show how its dogs allow veterans and first responders to “live a life without boundaries.”

Over the next several months, Sully never left Bush’s side, even, famously, after the president died Nov. 30. Sully accompanied Bush’s casket to Washington, D.C., and visited him as he lay in state.

His master may now be gone, but Sully’s days as a service dog are far from over. In January, he will be joining VetDogs facility dogs Sgt. Dillon and Sgt. Truman in the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center’s Facility Dog Program in Betheseda, Md. The three dogs will help wounded soldiers and active duty personnel with physical and occupational therapy.

“It was truly an honor to have provided service dog Sully to be by the president’s side for the past several months,” John Miller, president and CEO of America’s VetDogs, said in the press release. “As a true patriot and a visionary, President Bush will forever be viewed by people with disabilities and their families as a hero through his efforts to enact theAmericans with Disabilities Act. We are forever grateful to his service to the American people.”

To find out more about America’s VetDogs, visit their website.

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