At Helping Paws in Hopkins, a class of retrievers was learning what it means to be of service to a human on Monday afternoon.
So, I thought it was the perfect place to visit to ask about the bond between a service dog and their partner, after seeing the photo of Former President George H.W. Bush lying in his casket in Houston, and lying right next to him, his service dog Sully.
“There is a bond between people and their service dogs, it's a relationship like a marriage in some ways,” Helping Paws staffer Judy Michurski said.
In President Bush's final months of life, he was bound to a wheelchair due to his challenges from Parkinson's disease.
Sully came to his side in June to help the former president pick up things he would drop, open doors for him and support his balance when he needed to stand.
“They give them independence. If it's someone who uses a wheelchair they don't have to wait for someone to come and pick something up. They don't have to wait for someone to open a door for them they don't have to worry about getting into bed and having to turn a light off and can't get to it,” Michurski said.
But beyond tasks, a service dog is trained first to stay VERY close to their partner and to always, always keep watch.
“They need to stay closed and focused. One of the first things we teach these dogs is the cue 'watch' so that the dog is always watching. The reason why is so in public they are focused on their person and what their person needs them to do,” Michurski said.
“It’s funny because everyone I know sent me that photo and it brings a tear to my eye because I, I’ve seen that bond with our dogs, I understand that,” Michurski said.