Amid the extensive coverage of the memorial services for former President George H.W. Bush, a rather heartwarming and sentimental photo began to circulate on social media featuring the 41st president’s trained service dog, Sully.
Posted to Twitter on Sunday by Bush’s spokesman Jim McGrath with a caption that read, “Mission complete,” the touching photo showed Sully lying on the floor in front of Bush’s flag-draped casket at the funeral home.
— Jim McGrath (@jgm41) December 3, 2018
The post has since received more than 300,000 “likes” and more than 75,000 retweets, and became the subject of countless uplifting stories throughout the spectrum of media, as the bulk of outlets on both the right and left shared the decidedly non-partisan and emotional moment with their respective audiences.
And then there was the far-left media outlet Slate, which published an incredibly negative and unnecessary article written by Ruth Graham which criticized Americans for becoming emotionally invested in what she viewed as nothing more than a dumb dog lying on the ground, completely oblivious to goings-on around it.
The article was headlined “Don’t Spend Your Emotional Energy on Sully H.W. Bush,” and contained a sub-headline which read, “He’s a service dog who had been with the president for six months, not his lifelong companion.”
Graham noted that Sully had been named after the heroic airline pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger who had safely landed his crippled aircraft in the Hudson River in January 2009.
But in Graham’s opinion, the shared name was the only thing “heroic” about the service dog.
She lamented the explosion of media coverage over the picture that had transformed the dog into something of an overnight celebrity, and expressed her critical view for a social media account on Instagram on behalf of Sully that had documented the dog’s service with the former president, which began in June.
To her partial credit, Graham admitted that there was nothing wrong with the sentimentality of family pets reacting to the death of their owners, and further admitted there was some evidence to suggest that animals, in their own way, understand the concept of death and can experience and display something akin to the human emotion of grief over a permanent loss.
But Graham promptly overdrew on that credit as she smugly noted, “But Sully is not a longtime Bush family pet, letting go of the only master he has known. He is an employee who served for less than six months.”
She noted that Sully was a trained service dog that had been assigned by the non-profit group America’s VetDogs to the former president and that, rather than remain with the Bush family as a pet, the working dog would soon receive a new assignment to be stationed at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland, where it would provide service to veterans recovering from injuries.
“It’s wonderful for Bush that he had a trained service animal like Sully available to him in his last months,” wrote Graham. “It’s a good thing that the dog is moving on to another gig where he can be helpful to other people (rather than becoming another Bush family pet).
“But it’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?
“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,” Graham concluded.
It is worth noting that Graham’s utterly unnecessary mocking of a service dog and snarky dismissal of a dog’s obvious capacity to grieve for a lost companion was not well received, as the comment section of her post was almost 100 percent critical of her “hot take” on the touching photo.
So, too, was Slate absolutely ripped to shreds on Twitter, as it experienced what has been dubbed a “ratio’d” response, in that the negative comments to the post far outweighed the number of “likes” the anti-dog — and really, anti-American — post received.
Service dogs are amazing creatures, first and foremost, and dogs, in general, are quite capable of forming deep and lasting emotional bonds with their owners and handlers in exceedingly brief periods of time, far less than six months even.
For Graham to just wave that away as inconsequential is nothing short of pointlessly partisan and borderline revolting. And it’s almost certainly something she would not have felt the need to do if Sully had been the service dog of a Democratic president.
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