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Lifestyle & Human Interest

George HW Bush's Service Dog 'Sully' Comes Face to Face with Hero He's Named After

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Service dogs go through intense training and testing to be able to take up their position next to someone who can use their help. Most dogs go through months of training, learning basic commands, how to behave themselves in public and specific tasks to help their future owner.

Not all dogs that start the process meet the rigorous requirements and Service Dogs Inc. says that around 40 percent of their trainees don’t make the cut (and instead become awesome pets).

A lot of times it’s not about the training or how good a dog is — sometimes a dog just lacks the focus or isn’t cut out to do the work, and that’s not immediately apparent at the beginning or when they’re a puppy.

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Sully the yellow Labrador was cut out to be a service dog, though. Trained by America’s VetDogs, he learned an extensive array of commands and was even named after a person of excellence: the pilot Chesley Sullenberger.

While Sully was with George H. W. Bush for six months until his passing, most people know about him because of the photo of the faithful dog’s “final watch,” as he stayed by his master’s casket.

“That photo will forever memorialize their relationship,” the CEO of America’s VetDogs, John Miller, told CBS News. “I’m getting chills right now even thinking about it.”

During his time with Bush, Sully was able to do things like bring the telephone, get help if needed, attend on walks and play with the great-grandkids.


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Mission complete.

A post shared by Sully H.W. Bush (@sullyhwbush) on

Apparently, some of the great-grandkids were under the impression that Sully was their dog, too, and were confused during their great-grandpa’s funeral, thinking Sully may have passed as well.

The family is thankful for Sully’s service, though. They had tried to set up a meeting with Sully the pilot while Bush was still alive, but it never quite panned out.

They still wanted Sully the service dog to meet his namesake and they finally got their meeting last Thursday on the “Today” show. The pilot dressed up for the occasion, making sure to sport his yellow Labrador socks for the world to see.

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The Sullys were very polite with one other, the younger offering the elder his paw several times before they shook on it. The pilot commented on the widely circulated photo of the dog’s loyalty at the funeral.

“What a vigil he was holding,” the pilot said. “It was quite a moving image. That was the iconic image for me of the whole service.”

He also said that he was encouraged that the four-legged Sully would continue the pattern of Sullys helping others.

“I think he’s going to uphold the tradition quite well from what I can see,” Sullenberger said.

Sully the dog is headed to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center next where he will bring the same sort of love, care and affection to many that he brought to the former president.

“It was very important to President Bush that Sully carry on serving veterans,” Valerie Cramer, Sully’s trainer, said, “so he chose that Sully wouldn’t work for one individual person, but that he would serve many veterans, and the hospital setting is the perfect environment for that.”

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking