On Wednesday during a National Day of Mourning, the country honored the life of former President and NAVY veteran, George H.W. Bush. The 41st president’s service dog, Sully, paid his own tribute on Sunday, laying in front of Bush’s casket.
In western Massachusetts, dogs are being trained to one day be just like Sully.
Sharon Wachsler, the owner of At Your Service Dog Training in Wendell, is currently training Neelix to be a service dog. The first part of training includes basic obedience, then the dogs learn more difficult skills, like opening doors and turning off lights.
“When you can’t do something for yourself and you can ask your dog to do it, and they do it joyfully, that’s really the most amazing feeling,” said Wachsler.
However, some handlers need help emotionally.
“What the dog does, is, it will lean into them, paw them, to que the veteran that they need to start petting the dog,” said Sherrie King, who has trained service dogs for veterans here in western Massachusetts with organization Train a Dog, Save a Warrior.
The petting releases a chemical in the brain, according to King.
“A lot of times, that will stop episodes from ever even happening for the veteran,” said King.
Wachsler is offering information sessions on service dogs and training in January and February. You can find more information here.
As for Sully, his next mission is joining Walter Reed Medical Center’s facility dog program to help the veterans there.