The hero dogs of 9/11

Sunday, September 11th, 2011 · 20 Comments »

September 11 makes me tired and sad. Last night I found myself reading Mohamed Atta’s Instructions for the Last Night, which simply renewed my gratitude that Mayor Bloomberg is keeping religion out of the ceremonies today. Surely, if there is any day on which we should have freedom from religion, it’s September 11.

A friend forwarded me an email this morning about the 9/11 rescue dogs. Twelve of the dogs are still alive, and there’s a new book coming out about them. I don’t usually just cut and paste whole articles, but like I said, I’m tired and sad.

Everything below the line is copyright Daily Mail.


The 9/11 rescue dogs: Portraits of the last surviving animals who scoured Ground Zero one decade on

During the chaos of the 9/11 attacks, where almost 3,000 people died, nearly 100 loyal search and rescue dogs and their brave owners scoured Ground Zero for survivors.

Now, ten years on, just 12 of these heroic canines survive, and they have been commemorated in a touching series of portraits entitled ‘Retrieved’.

The dogs worked tirelessly to search for anyone trapped alive in the rubble, along with countless emergency service workers and members of the public.

Moxie, 13, from Winthrop, Massachusetts, arrived with her handler, Mark Aliberti, at the World Trade Center on the evening of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, and searched the site for 8 days

Moxie, 13, from Winthrop, Massachusetts, arrived with her handler, Mark Aliberti, at the World Trade Center on the evening of September 11 and searched the site for eight days

Tara, 16, from Ipswich, Massachusetts, arrived at the World Trade Centre on the night of the 11th. The dog and her handler Lee Prentiss were there for 8 days

Tara, 16, from Ipswich, Massachusetts, arrived at the World Trade Center on the night of the 11th. The dog and her handler Lee Prentiss were there for eight days

Kaiser, 12, pictured at home in Indianapolis, Indiana was deployed to the World Trade Center September 11, 2001, and looked for people in the rubble

Kaiser, 12, pictured at home in Indianapolis, Indiana, was deployed to the World Trade Center on September 11 and searched tirelessly for people in the rubble

Travelling across nine states in the U.S. from Texas to Maryland, Dutch photographer Charlotte Dumas, 34, captured the remaining dogs in their twilight years in their homes where they still live with their handlers, a full decade on from 9/11.

Their stories have now been compiled in a book, called Retrieved, which is published on Friday, the tenth anniversary of the attacks.

Noted for her touching portraits of animals, especially dogs, Charlotte wanted ‘Retrieved’ to mark not only the anniversary of the September 2001 attacks, but also as recognition for some of the first responders and their dogs.

‘I felt this was a turning point, especially for the dogs, who although are not forgotten, are not as prominent as the human stories involved,’ explained Charlotte, who splits her time between New York and Amsterdam.

‘They speak to us as a different species and animals are greatly important for our sense of empathy and to put things into perspective.’

Bretagne and her owner Denise Corliss from Cypress, Texas, arrived at the site in New York on September 17, remaining there for ten days

Bretagne and her owner Denise Corliss from Cypress, Texas, arrived at the site in New York on September 17, remaining there for ten days

Bretagne takes a break from work at the 9/11 site with Denise

Bretagne takes a break from work at the 9/11 site with her handler Denise

Guinness, 15, from Highland California, started working with Sheila McKee on the morning of the 13th and was deployed to the World Trade Center for 11 days
Guinness works at the 9/11 site shortly after the attacks

Guinness, 15, from Highland, California, started work at the site with Sheila McKee on the morning of September 13 and was deployed at the site for 11 days

Merlyn and his handler Matt Claussen were deployed to the on the 24th September, working the night shift for five days

Merlyn and his handler Matt Claussen were deployed to Ground Zero on September 24, working the night shift for five days

Most of the search and rescue dogs are Labradors or Golden Retrievers and Charlotte feels that the title works across many aspects of the story.

‘I found the dogs, I retrieved them, they were there to retrieve the victims, it is nicely rounded,’ explained Charlotte whose work is being exhibited at the Julie Saul Gallery NYC opening on September 8, in time for the anniversary.

After working on a project about police canines and other working dogs, she was inspired to concentrate on the animals that played such a huge part in seeking survivors.

Contacting the NYPD, the New York Fire Department and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Charlotte discovered that out of the nearly 100 dogs among the first responders deployed by FEMA, there were in fact only 15 still alive last year.

Red, 11, from Annapolis, Maryland, went with Heather Roche to the Pentagon from September 16 until the 27 as part of the Bay Area Recovery Canines

Red, 11, from Annapolis, Maryland, went with Heather Roche to the Pentagon from September 16 until the 27 as part of the Bay Area Recovery Canines

Abigail the dog and Debra Tosch were deployed on the evening of September 17 at the World Trade Center and then searching for 10 days
Tuff and Tom Andert arrived in the city at 11:00 pm on the day of attack to start working early the next day the World Trade Centre

Abigail, left, was deployed on the evening of September 17, searching for 10 days while Tuff arrived in New York at 11:00 pm on the day of attack to start working early the next day

Scout and another unknown dog lay among the rubble at Ground Zero, just two of nearly 100 search and rescue animals who helped to search for survivors

Scout and another unknown dog lie among the rubble at Ground Zero, just two of nearly 100 search and rescue animals who helped to search for survivors

‘They were there for the first few weeks, they were trained to find people alive, although that is ultimately not what happened,’ said Charlotte, who will hold a fundraiser for the First Responder Alliance at Clic Bookstore in New York on September 29.

‘I traveled across the United States to meet with the owners and portray the dogs. They are all retired and I spent time with each of their handlers learning about their experiences.

‘It was moving talking to Denise Corliss, who is the handler and owner of Bretagne, one of the Golden Retrievers.

‘She told me a touching story of one fireman who was there in the rubble, and how taken he was with Bretagne who comforted him as he sat down to catch his breath.

Handler Julie Noyes and Hoke were deployed to the World Trade Centre from their home in Denver on September 24 and searched for 5 days

Handler Julie Noyes and Hoke were deployed to the World Trade Center from their home in Denver on September 24 and searched for five days

Searching for survivors: The dogs tirelessly worked to help find those who survived the horrific attacks

Searching for survivors: The dogs worked around the clock in the vain hope of finding anyone still alive at the World Trade Center site

‘Years later at a Remembrance Ceremony, the same fireman recognised Bretagne and her handler and they had a touching reunion.

‘It developed that even though the dogs couldn’t find people still alive, they could provide comfort for the brave firemen and rescue workers of the emergency services.’

Wishing to tell the other side of heroism from 9/11, each of Charlotte’s encounters with dogs such as Gabriel and Orion and Scout stayed with her.

‘The dogs are now old and they will soon pass away. Even during the time it has taken since my first work on the ‘Retrieved’ portraits to now, three of the final 15 have died,’ said Charlotte.

‘These portraits are about how time passes, and how these dogs and their portraits are offering us a way to deal with the things that happened as well as relying on them for comfort.’


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20 Responses to “The hero dogs of 9/11”

  1. SYD says:

    Thank you so much for this!

    Will def. look for the book!!

  2. tinfoil hattie says:

    Oh, yeah? ‘Cause Obama read a psalm about God being in our city, or some such nonsense.

    Guess you can’t tell the PRESIDENT what to do! If he’s a godbag, you’re gettin’ the proselytizing.

  3. tinfoil hattie says:

    Those beautiful dogs all look so noble.

  4. Cleaver says:

    So touching. I wonder if any of the first-responder dogs succumbed to some of the same illnesses as their human counterparts.

  5. Ugsome says:

    I’m thankful to be living in France where I don’t have to suffer 24/7 9-11 jingo-porn.

    Bless the dogs, they came, they worked, and they went home. They did not turn the day to their own political advantage. May we hope to one day attain their level of decency.

  6. Violet Socks says:

    I was up at dawn this morning, so I watched the live CNN feed from Ground Zero. I can’t stand commenters and all that, so CNN Live is a blessing. They were feeding from the World Trade Center site long before the ceremony started.

    In the silence of the early morning, the sound of those waterfalls was eerie. It is a beautiful memorial. The names are etched in bronze, and they glow. The water glows, the names glow, and the whole thing is beautiful and deeply disturbing at the same time.

    What a tragedy that day was. What a tragedy. Even now, I can’t dwell on it without tears coming to my eyes.

  7. Toonces says:

    I wondered that too, Cleaver.

    Beautiful dogs. I’m sure they know they did important work. Thank you for reposting this.

  8. scott says:

    I’m all choked up. It’s so hard to get back to what happened on 9/11 through the multiple layers of OTT media coverage and hype, as well as the perverted ways in which it was used. This did it for me – people lost, and animals trying to find them or at least reassure everyone left behind that we tried our best to find them. God bless them all, the victims, their families, and the dogs. Thank you so much for this!

  9. Violet Socks says:

    Cleaver and Toonces, yes, I do think some of the dogs had those problems. Look up Trakr, the amazing heroic German shepherd who found one of the very few survivors in the rubble. He suffered immediate problems with smoke inhalation at the site, just like all the other human and canine first responders, and later in life developed a neurological disease that was attributed to the chemical inhalations from that day. I don’t know about the other dogs, but maybe that happened to a lot of them.

  10. angie says:

    I remember donating to buy these little padded bootie things for the dogs to wear on their paws because they were getting all cut on the debris.

    Thanks for this, Violet.

  11. Carmonn says:

    Very touching. Some network was re-running a tribute concert from 2001, it was very odd to remember celebrities pleading for understanding and being roundly booed.

  12. Val says:

    Cleaver & Toonces already brought it up, but I’d also be curious to see some sort of epidemiological study about these heroic dogs’ causes of death…
    (Of course, Golden Retrievers are known to be little “cancer factories” anyway, but it still bums me out)
    The saddest thing for me, remembering that awful day, is how crews were geared up to take care of busloads of survivors…Yet there were few-to-NONE.

  13. Violet Socks says:

    Yes, Val, I remember that too. And remember how everyone was donating blood? It was just overwhelming as realization dawned that almost no one had survived the collapse.

    A few people who were shielded in a stairwell walked out, and right now I can think of only two people who were found in the rubble.

  14. Violet Socks says:

    And also this: I remember that before long I was praying (to who I don’t know) that the people in the rubble had already died, because it was clear that there was no way to get to them. I just prayed and prayed that death had been near-instantaneous and that there weren’t people trapped in pockets, alive and in agony, dying slow horrible deaths.

  15. Branjor says:

    Yes, Violet, me too. It was so horrifying.

  16. bobc says:

    And there were heroes and more! The dog that despite burned paws, smoke inhalation, and a broken leg led 900+ people to safety and won the medal of honor. (first canine in history to do so, I think!)

  17. Violet Socks says:

    bobc, I think that particular story is an urban legend. As you’ll see at that link, though, there were some real stories of real dogs who did indeed lead people to safety. Amazing.

    I love dogs more than I do people.

  18. Laura Kellner says:

    Thank you for this wonderful post. Considering that so many rescue dogs are larger breeds I was tear-spottedly happy to see any of the 9/11 rescue canines alive ten years later.

  19. bobc says:

    “RED FACED IN NY.” Thank for the link!

  20. riv says:

    As soon as the attacks began 40 aircraft heading to U.S. cities and coming over the Atlantic and Pole routes were diverted to Gander Newfoundland. Gander and three smaller airports in Canada processed many thousands of Americans (30,000 or so) in the next four days. Gander and area fed and housed about 7,000 for about a week until they could continue their journey home to the U.S. These are communities with populations of about 600, Gander a bit bigger. The people who live in Newfoundland are among the largest population of working poor in North America, most are fishers and sealers, who for generations relied on now devastated fishing and sealing industries.

    Violet, apart from the historical aspects, and the amazing community offering these poor people made refusing any recompense–I know you will be delighted and charmed by the Newfoundland accent and vernacular.

    http://www.cbc.ca/checkup/episode/2011/09/11/your-recollections-of-911-and-how-it-changed-our-lives/

    This is a two hour radio program interviewing the people of Gander area and the Americans housed and protected in outport Newfoundland communities until they could go home. Thousands of those U.S. citizens mark 9/11 by returning to those little villages and Gander.

    “For it was in Gander and the surrounding towns that so many of the passengers of planes called down that day — some near 40 of them — were taken in, cared for, entertained and in many cases simply overwhelmed by the unstinted hospitality they received.

    And 10 years later: another wonder. Many of the Americans from that period, who have already started scholarships in gratitude, or been back for personal reunions, or simply told their stories over the years, have come back to Gander to refresh their acquaintance with the Newfoundlanders they met and came to know. Yesterday, for example, in what I think was a brilliant gesture both of thanks and a little fun, they — the once stranded passengers — served breakfast to the Newfoundlanders who 10 years ago packed lunches and did what they could over three and four days to feed the additional 7,000 people who were startlingly, wandering around their town, or Gambo, Appletown, or Lewisporte.

    Gander and those towns set the standard for human response to those in distress and anxiety, and so cast a light of brilliant contrast to the horror and meanness of the terrorist deed. Here is the counter impulse to terrorism: the desire to help, to succor when needed, to be cheerful in charity, and to build friendships out of hard times. Checkup is here in Gander today — and pleased to be so — to talk a little about the minor miracles of that day, why the story out of Newfoundland has had such reach and resonance, and to let the rest of Canada hear from some of the very people most affected. Both those who lived in Gander, and those who arrived, so suddenly and in such anxiety on that day 10 years back.

    For others across Canada who watched in horror as the events in the U.S. unfolded, many felt a strong urge to help too in some way — in any way. We want to hear from you too. Those of you who watched from afar, what was going through your minds? Where were you, and what were you doing? What was your reaction?

    Many here in this area of Newfoundland did not have much time to reflect on the scale of those events as they rushed to help those who descended from the skies. They’ve had 10 years now and those they helped have returned in gratitude. How has this event changed us and our lives?

    ~~