By Andrew Hager, Historian-in-residence
Our 41st President welcomed a new staff member this week–a yellow labrador retriever named Sully. The dog has been brought on board to help George H. W. Bush, 94, in a variety of ways.
Former President Bush has been in and out of the hospital lately, and he uses a wheelchair. His wife, Barbara Bush (author of Millie’s Book) passed away this year. Sully can bring Mr. Bush the telephone and answer to two pages of verbal commands, but perhaps his most important task is providing companionship.
This is the first instance of a president making use of a service dog. Fittingly, it was President Bush who signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law in 1990. The ADA guarantees the rights of people with disabilities to take trained service dogs into public places, such as restaurants and hotels. Sully was trained by the Guide Dog Foundation and America’s VetDogs.
On a personal note, I have long been grateful to President Bush for signing ADA into law. As a legally blind man, I, too, travel with a labrador retriever who keeps me from falling down stairs or running into trees. The ability to take my dog anywhere I go is vital for me and thousands of others who need trained service animals to maintain our independence. I am sure that the president will find, as I have, that a service dog is more than just a tool — such a dog is truly your best friend.
Congratulations, Mr. President! May you and Sully have a long and fruitful partnership!