BETHESDA, Md. —
Sully, the celebrated yellow Labrador retriever that was the service dog of former President George H.W. Bush, has joined the ranks of working dogs at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center here.
Inducted by way of a paw shake and through an oath of office given yesterday by Walter Reed’s director, Navy Capt. (Dr.) Mark Kobelja, Sully enlisted in the medical center’s facility dogs program, in which he will work with disabled inpatients and outpatients.
During his enlistment ceremony at the center’s USO building, Sully was cited as “a true patriot” and was enlisted as a Navy hospital corpsman, 2nd class.
Pinning on Sully’s devices were Evan Sisley, personal aide and senior medic to President Bush and Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Samantha Murdock, the leading petty officer for Walter Reed’s Facility Dog Program.
The 2-year-old Labrador was by Bush’s side for six months, and it was the Bush family’s wish that after the former president’s death, Sully would join the service-dog program at Walter Reed. He joins a unit of six other dogs in Walter Reed’s Facility Dog Program.
“We appreciate the time he had with the president. Sully made a tremendous impact — not only for the president — but his caregivers and the entire [Bush] family,” said John Miller, president and chief executive officer for America’s VetDogs, where Sully was trained to be a service dog.
“Sully’s going to do a great job here at Walter Reed. He’s going to see a patient on average every hour,” leaving patients in more cheerful moods, he said.
“He’ll do a lot of things here, but mostly bring smiles to faces,” as a dog with the right demeanor, Miller added.
Sully and the other service dogs at Walter Reed typically visit patients on wards and in behavioral health, the brain fitness clinic, and occupational and physical therapy clinics.
The facility dogs at Walter Reed average 2,500 contacts with people and more than 200 working hours per month collectively, according to a Walter Reed press release. Many of the dog handlers are active-duty service members who are trained in a 6-week program. The dogs live with a custodian of the program.
Sully, like his six battle buddies, is trained in situational awareness, sitting politely for petting, accepting a friendly stranger, walking through a crowd, how to react to distractions, entering elevators, how to react to another dog, and various commands.