That dog won’t hunt

As the news cycle surrounding George H.W. Bush’s death slowly petered out last week, I encountered stories about the late president’s service dog, and images described touchingly as the yellow lab paying his last respects.

Prepared to get weepy, I opened a photo of the dog one news organization described as “guarding” his dead master’s casket in Houston.  It appears, though, that Sully is actually sleeping on the comfy carpet.  This is the kind of “guarding” that might get a human sentinel court-martialed, or — in wars past — shot.

sully sleeps

I next watched a news video that purported to show Sully “honoring” the late president lying in state,  when to all appearances he is actually checking out the crowd,  looking to his handler for instructions, relaxing, and briefly trolling the floor hopefully for crumbs.

In other words, without the Hallmark Channel overlay,  Sully was behaving like an ordinary, unconcerned dog, not Lassie or Rin Tin-Tin. To which I say:  Yay, Sully.

If animals teach us anything — and sometimes I think they teach us everything — it’s that the ever-changing real world is larger and much more interesting than the bloated and stodgy dramas humans create.   This is not to say animals don’t form close bonds with companions, and don’t feel their loss.  They experience grief; yet, they do not dramatize or perpetuate it in the self-absorbed manner of people.

In this case, Sully hardly had time to form a deep bond;  he was with Bush just six months.  And yet narratives rife with melodrama are being foisted on the poor guy as the media seeks to wring every last drop of high emotion from the story of a president’s passing. But that dog won’t hunt.  Sully appears less interested in human projections than a biscuit, and whatever intriguing thing the next moment brings.

This in no way diminishes the death of a man whose long life of public service recalls an era of courage, duty and modesty, values many of us miss.  Nor does it belittle human loss and sorrow:  Grief as we experience it can be deep, complicated and long-lived. (Personally, I hope to reincarnate as an animal because I’m weary of being run around by a human brain when I could be stupidly happy fetching sticks, lying in the sun with my paws in the air or prowling through Nature.)

Rather, this dog’s story — the one that’s evident, not fabricated —  reminds us again of the unadorned wisdom of animals, who are so present,  so engaged and yet so matter-of-fact about living and dying.  Like Sully, they are content to inhabit their moment-to-moment lives,  looking not back but always out, at the wide world before them.  Not the grandiose human drama of death for them, but the simplicity of an embodied life. Always life.

To which I say:  Good boy, Sully;  good boy.  Give that dog a bone.





  1. wildchild47 · · Reply

    It’s just weird\crazy how we have to seemingly put a spin on every.single.thing. – especially since the media is ever present all of the time. To be sure, this is a very public event, or rather, was, and I have no doubt, that to some degree, this service dog did in some ways bond with the former late president, but it just seems absurd to have to play into this and make mountains out of molehills. Honestly.

    I’m really glad to read your thoughtful and “sane” perspective post, because there are far too many moments when I think, am I completely losing whatever is left of my mind, (it seems like a “it’s just me, right?” moment) – but this is all so totally out of hand and whack.

    And on a similar note: perhaps you might be familiar with this most excellent, if not slightly disturbing, book:
    Fifteen Dogs by Canadian writer André Alexis

    It’s truly a magnificent and extremely thought-provoking book. It scrapes and scratches right into the heart of what it means to be human, as experienced from a canine perspective. It’s really well written, an “easy” read – but it does grip and rip at times. An unforgettable book that challenges and truly can’t help but elicit a very profound reaction.

    You might enjoy it, considering your thoughts, ideas and general “sane sense” as you’ve discussed in your post.


    1. Thanks so much for this response and the book suggestion; my library has several copies, so I’ll get to read it soon. Re. the rest of your observation, maybe we should start a #JustMe movement. 🙂 I often find myself thinking in ways most people seem not to, and usually keep those thoughts to myself. Expressing them just affirms a sense of being different, which can feel painfully isolating.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. wildchild47 · · Reply

        well, it’s definitely wonderful to actually know that in some ways, we aren’t as “alone” in our thoughts, feelings and thinking – because you’re right, it can end up being very isolating indeed.

        and I’m chuckling @ #JustMe — what an idea, but oh, my – how utterly “selfish” that might seem … or in this day and age, who knows how it might become so twisted?!

        and your thoughts make think on this quote:
        “As a child I felt myself to be alone, and I am still, because I know things and must hint at things which others apparently know nothing of, and for the most part do not want to know. Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.”
        ― Carl Jung

        as for the book? it’s worth the read – but be warned, it’s not a “feel good story” – and if you love animals, it can be exceedingly cruel in passages.


        1. I consider myself warned — and I already fetched the book from the library while I was out today. The blurbs and reviews sound intriguing. So thanks again for that suggestion, and also the Jung quote. It’s an unusual but insightful definition of loneliness.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. wildchild47 · ·

          well, “happy” trails/tails/tales …. and please, let me know what you think when you’re done, I’d be curious to hear, learn of your thoughts 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for your realistic footnote on the media’s milking Sully for emotional response (ie, media promotion)
    (My yellow lab Buttercup also thanks you for presenting good dog vibes.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are both most welcome. How exhausting it would be if animals were like humans!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: