The devastating events of 9/11 killed thousands of people, including employees in the buildings and rescue workers who went to their aid. Among those who put themselves on the scene of the terror to save others were hundreds of dogs.
Following the planes crashing in to the World Trade Center in New York City, almost 10,000 rescue workers put aside their instincts of self preservation to head towards the terrifying scene of destruction and devastation.
Many of the rescuers had working dogs in tow; faithful canines who always seem happy to help and ready to do their job to the best of their abilities.
Around 300 dogs joined in the rescue mission on the day, taking on the chaotic streets to search through the rubble for survivors, look for bombs, and do their best to comfort those who were involved in the horrific situation.
Like the firemen, police officers and medics, the dogs worked tirelessly in the dusty conditions to save as many people as possible. 17 years later, it is our job to continue remembering and honouring them and the work they did.
One of the heroic dogs was Bretagne, pronounced Britnee, the last living dog to have taken part in the rescue mission on 9/11. Bretagne sadly died last year, but she managed to live a long life, passing away at 16 years old.
Bretagne was just two years old when she put her nose to use following the collapse of the Twin Towers. Alongside her owner Denise Corliss, the golden retriever worked on the scene to look for survivors.
Denise and Bretagne spent 10 days going from rescue to recovery as the fallen structures were searched.
Bretagne began her training as a search and rescue dog when she was just eight weeks old, taught by Denise who was a volunteer firefighter with the Cy-Fair Fire Department.
The pair became a FEMA-certified canine team that also worked in the rescue missions for Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita, and Hurricane Ivan.
The retriever retired from her hard work at nine years old, and when she passed away last year firefighters and search and rescue workers from the fire department saluted her as her body was carried out of the animal hospital, draped in an American flag.
Another of the heroic hounds, Riley, was trained to search for people who were still alive under the rubble. While he searched for the survivors, Riley uncovered some of those who had devastatingly lost their lives to the attacks.
The hard working dog managed to give the friends and family of those he found some comfort by retrieving their bodies. They were not left wondering, and were able to properly honour those they had lost.
Riley’s carer spoke about the dog’s work:
Riley knew the people he continued to find were dead. He was never a formally trained cadaver dog. His job was to find the still living. I tried my best to tell Riley he was doing his job.
He had no way to know that when firefighters and police officers came over to hug him, and for a split second you can see them crack a smile – that Riley was succeeding at doing an all together different job. He provided comfort. Or maybe he did know.
The hard work and commitment by the rescuers in the mission – both human and four-legged – saved many lives, and it is important that we never forget the hard work they did.
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