Mission complete: President Bush’s dog Sully transitions to new role helping veterans

By on December 3, 2018 with 22 Comments

There has been so much to move the spirit over the 48 hours since we learned of the passing of George H.W. Bush, our 41st president. I was deeply touched by “Mission Complete,” the image of Sully the dog, keeping vigil by the late president’s flag-draped casket. What a powerful symbol of faithfulness and loyalty, a perfect tribute to a man who served our nation in that vein for his entire lifetime, as a military aviator, congressman, agency head, ambassador and president.

Sully, the president’s companion and service dog during the last months of his life, will accompany the president’s casket as it is flown to Washington today, and he’ll stay on, at Walter Reed Army Hospital, in a new role. There, he’ll help to comfort and serve other veterans.

I was happy to learn about Sully and his new assignment, because the Humane Society of the United States has been working with the Department of Veterans Affairs on a partnership to increase animal-related volunteerism and adoption by veterans.

The members of the Bush family have always shared their affection for their pets with the American people. First Lady Barbara Bush celebrated her dog Millie in a wonderful book for children, describing a typical day in the White House for President Bush and his family.

First Lady Laura Bush attended our 50th anniversary celebration concert at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2004. And with George W. Bush, her husband, the 43rd president of the United States, adopted a dog as a public act from the SPCA of Texas in 2016, encouraging other Americans to “consider adopting a pet from an animal shelter or rescue group.”

In death as in life, George. H.W. Bush has reminded us of the quintessential American values, of family, faith, devotion to country, humanitarian spirit, and as the presence of Sully and other dogs and cats in the president’s family life reminds us, of compassion and love for animals.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the late president’s family, and may he rest in peace.

Companion Animals

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  1. Val Philbrick says:

    It is sad that the Bush family do not want to keep Sully in the only home he he has ever known. In addition to adjusting to the loss of his master, he has to adjust to all new surroundings. I don’t call that compassion for animals, I call it heartless.

    • Deb says:

      Actually Sully as a trained service animal would be lost without having a job to do. Even service dogs retired because of age are often allowed to continue helping in home. He wouldn’t be happy as a pet.

    • Lory Williams says:

      I agree!!

    • Kathy says:

      He has only had Sully since Barbara passed away, Sully was not a family pet.

    • Marilyn says:

      I agree

    • Marilyn Wileman says:

      I agree.

    • Sherri says:

      To my view, this situation is all about compassion – compassion for other people and compassion for Sully. First, the Bush family must be commended for their compassion for others in wanting other vets to benefit from the same gift Sully gave to George H.W. did, i.e. the help and support Sully was specifically trained to provide. They are also to be commended for their compassion for Sully. It is very important to understand that service dogs are not at all in the same category as family pets; they live their lives differently than family pets, and are motivated by and driven by different factors than family pets. Sully is a trained working (service) dog, and for trained working dogs, doing their “job” is what they live to do and love to do. Yes, they offer companionship and the like to their families as well, but first and foremost, they are service dogs with a job. That is the life Sully knows, and allowing Sully to continue to live that life is the most compassionate thing that can be done for him. Please also understand that the home he shared with the Bush family is not the only home Sully has ever known. Sully is 2 years old. He was with the Bush family for 6 months (June 2018 to present). His early life would have been spent in the home of a puppy raiser (volunteers who raise and train service dogs until they are a year+ and ready for formal training), after which he would have undergone his service dog training. This is in no way to negate the bond Sully no doubt developed with George H.W. and the rest of the Bush family – it’s just meant to clarify based on the OP’s comment of “only home he has ever known.” It is both noble and compassionate of the Bush family to set their own personal interests aside to allow Sully to continue to do what he loves to do, and to allow others to reap the benefits of that.

    • Karen says:

      Val, I’m torn. Part of me thinks like you do but that dog is trained and has many years left to help another Veteran. What if your family member could benefit feom this dog, give them their freedom back to go and do. The dog won’t be tossed to the first person on the list, he’ll be matched up

    • Eileen says:

      It takes a lot to become a service dog. Not every dog is able to meet the requirements. Many more people need sevice dogs than are available. It would be a waste of the dog’s amazing abilities to have it only be a pet. Think of it as you would a hospice nurse. Just because his/her patient dies, doesn’t mean she should give up her occupation.

    • Jennifer says:

      It was at the President’s request that Sully goes to work at the hospital. Nothing wrong with respecting his wishes

    • John Bachman says:

      I agree. A dog does not understand the idea of service but does understand the feelings of love and loss and abandonment. I would think he would be better at the home he knows even though he will still feel the loss.

    • Aleda says:

      Amen to that

    • EL says:

      Giving the dog to serve vets is carrying on the presidents mission of service for his country. The unconditional love sully will be able to give vets is much needed. A especially if there is a vet that needs a service dog. This is an unselfish act!
      Proud of the family.

    • Dee says:

      It is my understanding that President HW Bush requested that Sully was sent to help veterans after his mission was complete with him. Secondly, I do not believe the Bush family was given the choice to keep him. He is a service dog. And an amazing one at that! God bless him on his next mission.

    • jhhdg says:

      I agree …!!…why Sully is not being taken in by family members ..? …

  2. Carolyn Bjornstrom says:

    This wonderful dog has a profession. Trained in several areas to provide service to human individuals to achieve particular tasks.
    Sully has a job.
    I believe Sully should find his doggie fulfillment in doing what he was educated to do: help with tasks that individuals can’t do all by themselves.
    And yes, I have no doubt, none at all, that President Bush enjoyed the company of this warm and loving animal.
    Hire Sully.

  3. Cheryl Cano says:

    I thought it was odd the family didn’t keep. Sad for Sully. They need the one on one love.

  4. Vicki Morelock says:

    It’s not that they do not want to keep him. He’s a special dog that has received special training as a service dog. Service dogs can take more than a year to train and can be specialized in what they are able to do.
    After training is completed, the service dog moves from their trainer to the person they will serve.
    Sully will help another veteran be able to have a better quality of life because of the confidence he is able to give them both physically and mentally. Not every dog has the temperament or savvy to be a service dog.

  5. Saghi ownjazayeri says:

    He should be kept by the Bush family. It is so mean and heartless to give him away.

  6. Connie Hatt says:

    How do they deal with Sully’s emotional needs. He obviously loved the Bush family. An animal does not understand death, not on our level only on their level. Will he continue to live t Walter Reed? I wish him the best and all the happiness in the world.

  7. AH says:

    We just adopted a puppy from the local Shelter. We are looking in to train him as a Service Dog. My son has a rare disease and he would be a great help if he needs
    Anything that happens. I met a man who was training his dog for mental health.
    When we picked out Shadow I fell in love with him. He is 6 months old.
    I have always had small dogs. This one is
    32 lbs. It was so hard going to the Shelter seeing all the dogs. I am so glad we found a puppy.

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