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Canine Hero’s of 911

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Around 10,000 rescue workers aided in the search for survivors after the World Trade Center fell. The heroes of the canine variety comprised more than 300 of those service members.

To honor the hero dogs of 9/11 and all those whose lives were irrevocably changed by the constant companionship of man’s best friend, we recall and respect the hero dogs of 9/11. Dogs who have provided search and rescue, comfort, and bomb detection services for victims of tragedies like the 9/11 terrorist attacks must never be forgotten.

BRETAGNE
The attacks occurred when Bretagne was only two years old. Denise Corliss, her owner and handler, accompanied Denise on her mission, which began with a rescue effort at Ground Zero but transitioned to recovery by the end of their 10-day work shift.

Corliss, who works for the Cy-Fair Fire Department as a volunteer firefighter, started training Bretagne, who had just turned eight weeks old, to be a search and rescue dog. The duo soon received FEMA certification as a canine rescue team and began helping with disaster relief missions in the wake of hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Ivan.

From the age of 9, Bretagne gave up formal search work, but continued to assist the local fire department as a goodwill ambassador and read to elementary school students as a volunteer service dog.

Until her death in 2016, Bretagne remained the sole living search and rescue dog of the September 11 attacks.

Firefighters and search and rescue workers lined the sidewalk and saluted as Bretagne entered the animal hospital in Cypress, Texas. Her body was covered in an American flag, as she was brought out later.

RILEY
(September 15, 2001) New York, NY— Riley, a Golden Retriever SAR dog, gets extracted from the World Trade Center rubble. Credit: First class journalist Preston Keres, U.S. Navy.
Riley, a Golden Retriever, learned to detect live humans who were caught in the September 11th attacks. He helped recover several firefighter bodies, which, all things considered, is still something. Even though his job was to locate survivors, Riley did everything he could to try to save people.

Riley knew that each person he discovered was already dead. His search partner informed us of this. His canine certification did not come through training school. His job was to locate those who were still alive. I really tried to emphasize that Riley was on the right track. Riley was succeeding at doing an altogether different job because when firefighters and police officers came over to hug him and you could see them crack a smile for a split second, it was proof that Riley was doing a better job than he had any idea. He made everyone feel better. Maybe he did know, or perhaps he found out later.

The lab’s canine co-workers COBY and GUINNESS.

A pair of Labrador retrievers named Coby and Guinness tirelessly combed through the rubble of the World Trade Center following their retirement and return to their owner’s house in Southern California.


In total, they searched for 11 days out of every 12-hour shift in an area that was much larger and more crowded than they had ever been trained for. A nap or a chew toy was their prize.

While working together, they discovered numerous body parts amongst the debris.

APOLLO
Peter Davis brought Apollo, a dog that was trained to locate human remains, to Ground Zero to help find and identify victims of the terrorist attacks.

Appollo, the first search and rescue dog to arrive at the World Trade Center after the collapse of the towers, arrived at the site just 15 minutes after the attack.

One point in the battle, Apollo had nearly died as a result of a collapse in the floor that happened to be in flames. Despite being soaked, he had escaped this predicament thanks to a pool of water catching him after he fell.

Once Davis cleaned the debris off of Apollo, Apollo went back to work.

THUNDER
On the search for 9/11 victims, Thunder and handler Kent Olson traveled from Lakewood, Washington.

Olson and Thunder both regularly patrolled Washington for avalanches, survivors, and victims of drowning. However, this was the first time they had assisted on a mission of this scale.

SAGE
Sage, at just 18 months old, became a FEMA search and rescue dog. She was sent to the Pentagon right after 9/11 to do some investigative work. Sage used her heightened sense of smell to find the terrorist’s body in the debris of the building, which Flight 77 had hit earlier.

TRAKR
German Shepherd and September 11 survivor rescue hero Trakr was with Canadian Police officer James Symington when he found the last known survivor of the World Trade Center attacks on September 11th. South Tower Tower collapsed as Genelle Guzman-McMillan was going down the stairs in it.

Trakr alerted firefighters to her whereabouts after spending 27 hours trapped under rubble and concrete.

Trakr clones
Trakr was selected by Symington for cloning after his DNA was entered into a contest. That same month, five clones of the Trakrs were delivered.

JAKE
Jake, only 10 months old, was found on the streets suffering from a dislocated hip and broken leg among many other injuries. His adoptive mother, Mary Flood, was part of the Utah Task Force 1, which specializes in natural disasters and utilizes a rescue team.
Mary put Jake through search and rescue training after nursing him back to health. Jake had a natural talent for rescue, and within a short time, he became a world-class rescuer. His most famous moments in the field were as a result of his work in the World Trade Center site after the 9/11 attacks, where he stayed for 17 days, despite the weariness that came with his job.

Jake assisted in teaching new volunteers and apprentices how to handle rescue dogs and how to properly raise them in the future. Jake found a way to help other dogs learn to track scents in difficult areas, including those difficult to search, such as snow and trees. Additionally, Jake was a therapy dog at a camp for burn victims, as well as nursing homes in Utah.

Many of the rescue dogs who assisted in the days after the attacks were severely wounded. In remembrance of those who died, we must recognize the profound impact of those who were the beacons of hope in a dark time for millions.

You can find more information about the September 11th dogs at Hero Dogs of September 11th: A Tribute to America’s Search and Rescue Dogs.

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