The darkest day in recent history for the USA had its fair share of heroes from the firefighters who walked into the flaming building to rescue people while knowing that it could collapse at any time. The passengers of United 93 who sought to overcome the terrorists and seize back control of the aircraft and the individuals who until that morning had been regular people. But there are other heroes who deserve as much praise, our loyal and four legged friends: heroes whose training meant that only they could go into places inaccessible to humans to rescue the trapped victims of the atrocity.
Probably the most famous of all dogs from that fateful day, Trakr was a German Shepherd in the Halifax Police Department (Nova Scotia). He achieved fame for rescuing the final survivor to be found in the rubble and he hadn’t even been part of the rescue team. His owner drove 15 hours from Nova Scotia to offer their services after Trakr had been retired from the Police. Trakr died in 2009 and has controversially been cloned five times.
Two days after the planes struck the building, Servus was searching the rubble for survivors when he slipped and fell into a cloud of dust. The dust was so thick that Servus began to suffocate. Only quick thinking saved his life; Servus was put on an IV drip, he was doused with water to solidify the dust and it was cleared from his nose and throat. Servus eventually came round but had to be retired from service due to irreparable damage to his sense of smell.
Moxie arrived the day of the atrocity and though she was trained as a rescue dog, her main contribution was the discovery of six bodies and countless body parts from the rubble. She reportedly worked 12 hours a day over the coming weeks and her efforts, like so many others, were vital in the clean-up operation and bringing news to the families of those trapped in the rubble. She was described as a fearless dog but not the brightest.
Guinness, a Yellow Labrador, was on site for ten days and was already an accomplished rescue dog for the California Urban Search and Rescue team when he arrived. Since then, he has gone on to further fame by being one of the key search dogs for Hurricane Katrina and rescued a number of people from the mudslides at Waterman Canyon and La Conchita. 2005-2006 was a busy time for Guinness not only for Katrina, but also Hurricanes Rita and Ernesto
Oddly, a black Labrador with not a spot of red on her, 9/11 was her first mission as a rescue dog and clearly, it was a baptism of fire when she was sent with her handler to rescue survivors from The Pentagon. Red, even at her advanced age, was considered an enthusiastic dog that never let illness ‘ particularly arthritis ‘ get in the way of her adventures. In 2012 she was selected for an experimental type of gene therapy for arthritis.
Orion was another Golden Retriever and another rookie sent into the rubble. Orion had only just passed the second of his two exams and was working on his first collapsed building; due to this green status, he wasn’t sent in until two weeks after the building collapsed and the clean-up operation was well under way. Orion found three sets of remains and was sent into a dangerous area of an outdoor patio on the tenth floor.
One of the earliest on the scene, Tara arrived at Ground Zero during the night and spent over ten days there finding survivors and human remains. She went on to have a rather illustrious career, regularly on site at building collapses and disaster zones, including a countless number of wilderness searches. Most notably, she was present at the collapse of a crane.
Kaiser one of a few dogs still alive at the tenth anniversary and he was flown into New York from his Indiana home for the special ceremony on 11th September 2011. Kaiser was an energetic and fearless dog who his part in discovering survivors and body parts; his handler noted that he was particularly astute at gauging the safety of the rubble. One touching story saw a man simply walk up to Kaiser, hug him for several minutes, thank the handler and walk off again. This was perhaps one of the other vital services dogs provided on that day.
Aside from the dogs that worked in the rubble, dogs provided another essential service. Kaiser may have unexpectedly provided much-needed comfort to that man but for some of the dogs there, they had been bred and trained specifically for that purpose. The most famous of the Therapy Dog Team, Tikva travelled New York with her handler offering affection to anybody who looked as though they needed it on the ferry between Ground Zero and the mainland.
Sirius went down in infamy as the only dog to die on that day. He was a Yellow Labrador and part of the bomb disposal team for NY/NJ Port Authority; the organisation had an office in the basement of Tower Two. Believing the building had been bombed, his handler left him in the kennel while he went to investigate. Unfortunately, his handler became trapped and Sirius was unable to escape the kennel. He died instantly and when his body was recovered, he was buried with full Police honours.
During the clean-up and rescue, twenty German Shepherds, seventeen Labradors, eleven Belgian Tervurens, six Golden Retrievers, three Border Collies, two Belgian Shepherds and one each of Airedales, Rat Terriers, Bloodhounds, Dobermans, Rottweilers, Beauceron, Australian Shepherds, Hovawart and Australian Cattle Dog all took part in the exercise. A memorial now exists in New York, dedicated to their memory and their bravery. Dogs continue to be used in search and rescue efforts all over the globe in a wide range of areas.