41 and his new service dog

Kaylah Jackson
June 26, 2018 - 11:36 am

Photo Credit: Evan Sisley

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Even former presidents need the love of a service dog.

And thanks to America's VetDogs, former President George H.W. Bush just received a new furry friend, a Labrador retriever named "Sully."

Sully was specially chosen to give daily support and companionship to President Bush, a WWII veteran who is 94 years old. The president's team at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center reached out to America's VetDogs to find the perfect canine companion for him.   President  Bush has suffered ill health recently, and his wife, former First Lady Barbara Bush, died in April. 

"It's an extremely high-touch process and each veteran has his or her own sets of needs, while many of the dogs get the same base of training,  there are different skills that can be customized and we work with each of the veterans including the president to provide the best potental fit," said John Miller, President and Chief Executive Officer of America's VetDogs.

In 2003, The Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind (VetDogs parent organization) recognized the need for an assistance dog program for veterans that would incorporate guide dogs, service dogs, and innovative training techniques and America's VetDogs was born.

President Bush's new dog Sully, was named after Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III,  the former airline pilot became famous for landing a damaged passenger jet on the Hudson River in 2009.

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Eden

Sully was raised and trained through the VetDogs prison puppy program. In the program, inmates raise future service dogs until the dog is about 15 months old. The handlers work with puppies on housebreaking, obedience and standardized commands. They also teach the three foundations of service dog tasks: retrieve, tug, and push – all part of the VetDogs training curriculum. 

But veterans aren't the only ones who benefit from a having man's best friend has a companion.

"My first couple weeks here, we had a service dog class and one of the spouses came up to me...and gave me a big hug and started crying on my shoulder and just thanked us for giving her, her husband back. Things like that you can't put a price tag on," said Miller.

VetDogs breeds their own service animals, specifically male and female Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Lab and Golden crosses, and Standard Poodles. And to boot, the dogs are free of charge to the veteran.

If you are a veteran interested in a service dog, you can visit America's VetDogs website here.

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