I don’t think there’s a person out there who was not touched by the sight of former President George Herbert Walker Bush’s service dog, Sully, lying on the floor beside his casket.
What is it about the subdued yellow lab that inspires such affection? Maybe this — Sully is going to stick close to his person as far as it takes him.
How do you explain this in people language? Devotion in today’s world is becoming a lost art. That this dog would understand there is a person he is to look out for and remain true to until “death do us part” is a picture of the longing many of us feel. When we see it we stop and honor it. Something shifts inside us. The selfishness softens. The losses lessen.
Sully didn’t know “41” was once a United States president. Or that George H.W. Bush risked his future at only 18 to go to war — becoming, in 1942, the youngest pilot in the U.S. Navy.
Sully couldn’t possibly have guessed his person wasn’t always in that wheelchair — that he had played soccer and baseball, golf and tennis.
The golden lab just understood this was the man America’s VetDogs trained him to care for. These assistance dogs for wounded or disabled veterans can open and close doors, summon help, turn on and off lights, and help provide balance and stability. In fact, from the four foundational training elements — push, tug, brace, and retrieval — the dogs can perform over 200 tasks.
Sully was especially bred for a gentle temperament. It takes patience to work with disabilities.
We who find ourselves with such responsibility cannot all say it is in our temperament. But like Sully, we can learn.
Being who he is, this dog is far from done. He’s going to be hanging around Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. A long way from Texas. He’ll make himself at home — befriending and assisting wounded soldiers, speeding their path to recovery.
He won’t know any more about them than he did Bush 41. He’ll just know they need him.
And that’s enough.