A photograph of the 2-year-old Labrador retriever resting beside the casket of his “best friend” and former president went viral Sunday, pulling at heartstrings across the political divide.
Referring to the “soul-wrenching” reactions to the image as “demented”, the article reminded readers that Sully was not a lifelong companion of Bush, who died Friday at the age of 94.
While there’s many reasons why people were so eager to see signs of grief in the dog, it may come down to the depth of grief humans feel when they lose their own canine companions.
Dogs are the only animals that have evolved specifically to be companions and friends to humans. Indeed, psychology professor Frank McAndrew has previously written in The Conversation that they “provide us with unconditional, uncritical positive feedback.”
But for Slate contributor Ruth Graham, the pooch was no more than an “employee who served for less than six months.”
“Is Sully “heroic” for learning to obey the human beings who taught him to perform certain tasks?” the article read. “Does the photo say anything special about this dog’s particular loyalty or judgment, or is he just … there?”
Many Twitter users saw the article as an “attack” on the service dog and wasted no time in letting the publication know exactly what they thought of it.