As we approach one of the most memorable days for our country, September 11th, we often find ourselves reflecting and thinking about the people who lost their lives that day and the families that were left behind. Among those people – first responders. Among the first responders – rescue dogs who contributed to saving thousands the day of the attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
The only rescue dog still alive is Bretagne, a fifteen-year-old golden retriever. Bretagne and her handler, Denise Corliss, had just completed the Search and Rescue training program when they were deployed to site of the World Trade Center attacks in 2001. They worked 12 hour days for two weeks straight. During this time, one thing Corliss realized that Bretagne was especially good at was comforting the first responders, as well as volunteers, family members, and friends who were separated from their family. They found relief in petting the pup for a few minutes and seemed to temporarily ease the negative and somber feelings of the site.
While the pups go through extensive training, they also have some natural traits that are discovered or looked for while they are just puppies. Corliss share some of these traits in a CNN article:
- High toy drive: “Their toy is their paycheck. We’re looking for the dog that’s going to be so over-the-top crazy for their toy that they’re going to be happy going over this rubble pile.”
- High prey drive: “They’ve got to be persistent. They’re going to hunt for survivors, and continue to hunt, and not give up.”
- Nerve strength: “We need dogs that are not going to be scared to climb a ladder up to the second story of a building — alone without a handler — or to go down into a dark tunnel.”
- Focus: “The dog can’t be concerned about a nearby jackhammer or loud truck or crane or emergency sirens.”
Bretagne is now retired, but this incredible golden retriever is still serving the public by helping children learn how to read. Some children experience extreme anxiety or nervousness when reading out loud, so Bretagne works at an elementary school where the children get to practice reading to her rather than out loud in front of a large group.
It takes a special pup to enter into danger because their handler told them to. It takes an even more special pup to run into a pile of rubble without their handler, not knowing that dangers could lie ahead. Bretagne was one of those incredible pups. So, this 9/11 let’s remember to take a moment and pay our respects to all of those who served in the efforts of rescuing the victims of that tragic day in history.