The yellow Labrador retriever appeared woebegone, his head slack over his front left paw, his muzzle resting on the ground. Yet, he was also steadfast, still keeping watch over George HW Bush, who died on Friday at his home in Houston.
After accompanying the statesman and Second World War veteran in the final months of his life, Sully, the late president’s service dog, lay before the casket holding what remained of him. The display of instinctual, animalistic devotion captured the reaction to Bush’s death in a way that the words spilled all weekend could not. “Dogs,” wrote the poet Emily Dickinson, “know but do not tell.” In his knowing pose, the dog was at rest.
Sully was matched to Bush this June, at the age of two. He is named after former airline pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who safely landed a plane on the Hudson River in 2009.
A form of Parkinson’s disease confined Bush to a wheelchair or motorised scooter in the final years of his life. Among the services that Sully was able to perform for Bush were retrieving dropped items, opening and closing doors, pushing an emergency button and supporting him when standing. As Sully went about these tasks, he amassed a following on social media, including on his own Instagram account, which boasts more than 79,000 followers as of Monday. On Sunday, the photo of Sully lying before Bush’s casket became the latest post.