We Will Never Forget…9/11 Rescue Dogs
I want to start this post by saying a prayer for the victims of 9/11 and their families.
On this day, the anniversary of 9/11, I thought it appropriate to publish a “shout out” to the Search and Rescue (SAR) dogs that were in New York City and Washington, D.C. that day and for weeks after the tragedy, digging away and looking for victims buried underneath the steel and rubble.
According to dogsinthenews.com, it was the largest deployment of search dogs in U.S. history “and possibly the single greatest example of inter-species cooperation in the history of human disasters.”
The final number of SAR dogs deployed to the two cities in the wake of 9/11 is unknown. It’s lowly estimated that around 350-500 dogs lent their snouts to 9/11 SAR efforts at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. One report says approximately 100 were deployed by FEMA, and 250 SAR dogs came from around the country, NYPD dogs, security dogs and volunteers who rushed to the scene as soon as possible.
FEMA rescue worker Bob Sessions had this to say about the heroic dogs of those days: “If these dogs only knew what a difference they make. Certainly, there’s nothing that can replace the precision of a dog’s nose—and absolutely nothing that can replace a dog’s heart.”
That day on the scene, Officer Joe Caputo of the NYC Police K-9 Unit said this: “You can train all you want, but this is the mother lode. The dogs can feel it.”
I remember hearing stories about these dogs, about how special they were. About how many of them there were. About where they came from — as far away as British Columbia, Colorado, Washington and California. I remember hearing how some of the rescue dogs were actually growing very depressed because they couldn’t find any humans alive, they felt they weren’t following through with their training, they felt it was their fault… a disheartening and emotionally devastating charge for any SAR dog and something that personally breaks my heart. SAR dogs—especially those trained to find living people—feel increased stress and depression as time passes with no survivors found. Workers actually started to put live bodies of volunteers in more obvious places, staging mock rescues, perhaps under only one or two layers of steel beams, for the dogs to find so they could get their confidence back…
Mike Owens of Southwestern Ohio K-9 Search and Rescue, speaking about his partner Worf, said this: “He kind of withdrew from everything. There was so much death there, it was emotional for the dogs.”
Special canine medical units treated as many as 100 injured dogs per day in the first few days of searching. Volunteer veterinarian Lisa Carter, 32, said that most of the injuries were cuts on their paws from the jagged glass and steel that the dogs have to climb over.
Sharon Gattas of Riverside Urban Search and Rescue had this to say about the rescue dogs of 9/11: “They go underneath into void spaces—anywhere we can get the dogs in. The site is very difficult agility for the dogs. They’re crawling on their bellies and squeezing through things. It’s incredible to watch.”
Here are some pictures, courtesy dogsinthenews.com, of rescue dogs from the days after the 9/11 tragedy:
To all of the 9/11 heroes, human and canine, acclaimed and unsung, thank you for your selfless bravery and dedication. We will never forget…
*All photos courtesy dogsinthenews.com*