Archive for June 2016

To Serve and Protect

June 27, 2016

 

We remember hearing the stories of the many search and rescue dogs that worked tirelessly at Ground Zero after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, of their bravery and loyalty and their willingness to serve. On June 6, 2016, Bretagne (pronounced Brit-nee) the last known survivor of these incredible dogs, passed away at the age of 16.

Bretagne, at age 2, was a youngster on that fateful day, and her work at Ground Zero was her first search and rescue mission. She and her handler, Denise Corliss, spent ten days searching through the rubble, first for survivors and then for remains. When Bretagne wasn’t searching, she provided comfort to the firefighters and other rescue workers at the site, as someone to hug and with soft fur to pet. It was said at the time that when they were not able to recover any survivors that some of the dogs became depressed. Perhaps then the comfort they received from the other workers benefited them, too.

After 9-11, Bretagne and Denise worked rescue after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ivan. After a full career, she retired from her service at age nine and went on to work as a goodwill ambassador as well as a reading assistant to children and visitor to autistic children. In 2014 Bretagne was a finalist at the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards. In 2015 she visited the Sept. 11 memorial in New York, and you have to wonder, as different as it all looked, did she remember the work she did there? The following year, Bretagne returned to New York and was given a hero’s welcome and a party to celebrate her 16th birthday.

On the day Bretagne made her final walk into the animal hospital outside Houston, Texas, firefighters and search and rescue workers lined the sidewalk to give her a final farewell. Rightfully so, she was carried out in a flag-draped casket.

Nearly 100 loyal search and rescue dogs and their owners worked at Ground Zero in the grueling and horrific days following 9-11. As dogs’ lives are all too short, they have now passed on, but they will never be forgotten for their work and dedication. Denise Corliss said she has worked with other rescue dogs but that Bretagne will always be that one special dog for her.

When we celebrate our nation’s freedom with fireworks this weekend, let’s remember that our pets don’t usually enjoy the noise that goes along with it. Taking dogs to the fireworks isn’t usually a good idea and in fact keeping cats and dogs inside or at least in an enclosed area during the height of the celebrating is best. Many pets become lost during firework season when they try to escape the noise they don’t understand. I’ve had dogs that barked the entire time and others that shook in fear (the same way they reacted during thunderstorms). A product that does help calm extremely nervous dogs is the Thundershirt. Wrapping around the dog, it gives a sense of protection and soothes frazzled nerves; perhaps like swaddling a baby? If your dog trembles in fear during summer storms or fireworks, a Thundershirt might be worth the investment. At our house, FooFoo usually takes a nap and snores during the neighborhood parties. Zombie ignores the whole thing, while Sammie makes a beeline for the basement or hides in a box until it’s all over. However your pets react, please just keep them inside and safe.

 

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