Close to 100 search dogs worked tirelessly alongside their handlers after 9/11. Sometimes working without rest for days at a time. With no protective gear, not even on their feet. And of course they could not use any form of breathing apparatus like the firefighters, because they needed their noses for their work. Most of these dogs were labradors and retrievers.
The only one surviving today is Bretagne, now 16, who was taken back to Ground Zero and given a hero’s welcome on 9/11 this year. She also celebrated her 16th birthday while she was there.
She had a limo ride, a trip to Times Square where her name was put up on a billboard. She then played in the dog park and was given a ‘Key to the City’ in the form of a Tiffany Dog bone charm with an inscription on it.
Bretagne also worked at other disasters, such as Hurrican Katrina, and still works as a therapy dog.
[ UPDATE: Bretagne passed away in June 2016. As she took her last walk into the veterinary clinic, she was flanked by an honour guard of firefighters, all standing to attention An American flag was later draped over her body as she was carried out of the clinic] <—- Click hyperlink for photo
All the other canine heroes of 9/11 have passed on to the Rainbow Bridge but Charlotte Dumas wrote a wonderful book about the last fifteen, called Retrieved, from which the photographs below come.
Immediately following the attacks of 9/11, nearly 100 trained search dogs and their handlers were deployed by FEMA to assist in the rescue efforts at the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Enlisted from a network of 26 task forces in 18 states around the U.S., the dogs worked around the clock to locate survivors in the rubble, alongside firemen and other teams sorting through the debris. One decade later, Dutch photographer Charlotte Dumas succeeded in tracking down 15 of the surviving dogs that took part in these rescue operations, visiting and photographing the dogs at their homes throughout the U.S., where they all still lived with their handlers. Composed at close range in natural light, Dumas’ powerful portraits–reproduced here in a thoughtfully designed paperback volume with Japanese binding–offer an intimate view into the everyday lives of these highly specialized working animals, now sharing the vulnerability of old age as they once pursued a common heroic goal.
If you have enjoyed this article, I have previously written about Animals in Service.