The dogs of September 11: their unsuccessful search for life helped keep it going

For more than two weeks after the Twin Towers collapsed on September 11, hundreds of search and rescue dogs searched the smoldering ruin...


For more than two weeks after the Twin Towers collapsed on September 11, hundreds of search and rescue dogs searched the smoldering ruins for signs of life.

Ricky, a 17-inch tall rat terrier, was able to squeeze through tight spaces. Trakr, a German Shepherd from Canada, combed the wreckage for two days, then collapsed from smoke inhalation, exhaustion and burns. Riley, a 4-year-old golden retriever, searched deep in the debris fields and helped locate the bodies of several firefighters.

“We went over there hoping to find hundreds of people trapped,” said Chris Selfridge, 54, of Johnstown, Pa., Who was Riley’s manager. “But we couldn’t find anyone alive.”

While there were not many survivors to be found in the midst of the destruction, the dogs’ dedication to their work has become an inspiring sight for emergency medical workers and others witnesses to the effort of urgent rescue. Now, as the 20th anniversary of the attacks approaches, those efforts are commemorated at an exhibit that opened Wednesday at the American Kennel Club’s Dog Museum.

Entitled “9/11 Remembered: Search & Rescue Dogs,” the exhibit also goes beyond the September 11 parameters to recognize dogs that have also worked in other disasters, not only in the United States, but around the world. The exhibition will also include several pieces from the DOGNY project, an artistic initiative that features life-size sculptures of German Shepherds. About 100 of them were placed around New York after the attacks.

“I hope it can be a little more edifying,” said Alan Fausel, executive director of the museum. “We also present some of the more positive sides and positive results: Rex of White Way saved a whole train of people stuck in the Sierra Nevada in the 1950s, and we will be talking about St. Bernards as Barry, a very famous St. . Bernard at the Saint-Bernard hospice in Switzerland which rescued avalanche victims.

The exhibit follows an ongoing temporary exhibit at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in Lower Manhattan, “K-9 Courage,” which opened in January 2020, but was barely seen due to the pandemic. . This exhibit, which runs until spring 2022, features photographer Charlotte Dumas’ portraits of 15 of the dogs who helped with recovery efforts at Ground Zero, taken for the 10th anniversary in 2011, along with photos of them. working in the wreck.

“You look them in the eye in old age and can, with the help of documentary photographs, imagine what their eyes have seen,” said Alice M. Greenwald, CEO and President of the museum. “But you also know that they have lived a life of service and certainly there is satisfaction in that – for dogs and humans alike.”

Some 2,753 people were killed when the Al Qaeda terrorist group hijacked two planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center towers, causing them to collapse within 102 minutes.

As a cloud of acrid dust enveloped Lower Manhattan and a nation mourned, hundreds of search and rescue teams from across the country descended on Ground Zero to join in the search for survivors, along with the first dogs, from the NYPD K-9 Urban Search and Rescue Team. , arriving at the South Tower only 15 minutes after it collapsed.

The teams worked 12 hours a day for an average of 10 consecutive days.

The New York Police Department reported that although survivors were found in the rubble, none of them were a direct result of the discovery of a dog. Several people, however, credited Trackr, a retired police dog, with playing a role in a rescue. His master, a Canadian police officer who drove down from Nova Scotia, was suspended from work for leaving without permission when his service saw him on television assisting with the rescue efforts. (Jane Goodall later presented him with a humanitarian service award).

Dr Cynthia Otto, director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center in Philadelphia which looked after the dogs at Ground Zero, said that for the most part, the dogs’ injuries were only “very minor” – cuts and scrapes to the paw pads, legs and stomach, mainly, as well as fatigue and heat exhaustion. The biggest challenge, she said, was the frustration of searching for hours and not finding anyone. When dogs started to get discouraged and lose motivation to search, dog handlers had to stage “fictitious finds” so that dogs could feel successful.

“When they train, they don’t search for hours without finding anyone,” she said in a recent phone conversation. “You have to remind the dogs every now and then that they are winning.”

Bretagne (pronounced Brittany), a golden retriever who was then 2 years old, arrived the week after the attacks and spent 10 days looking for survivors. She slept in a kennel at the Javits Center alongside her master, Denise Corliss, an electrical engineer from Texas who had traveled to the city with Texas Task Force 1, one of 28 teams that make up FEMA National Urban. Search and Rescue System.

Corliss, 56, said Brittany, who died in 2016, was the last known living assistance dog to have been employed by FEMA at Ground Zero. She comforted the rescuers and firefighters, who approached the dog and stroked it. Soon they would open up to Corliss, sharing personal stories of missing friends and colleagues they were looking for.

“A gentleman walked up and started petting Brittany and said, ‘You know, I don’t really like dogs,’” she said. “Which was a surprising statement considering he was kneeling down to pet her. I said ‘Ah?’ And he said, ‘Yes my best friend loved dogs; he had a golden retriever himself. My best friend is out there somewhere, “and he pointed to the stack. It was a connection to his missing friend.

And that’s, Fausel said, what the Musée du Chien hopes to capture in its new exhibit.

“The search and rescue dogs didn’t save anyone from the heap,” he said. “But I think they kinda saved the people who were looking.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: The dogs of September 11: their unsuccessful search for life helped keep it going
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