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Monday, September 12, 2011

9/11 Hero Dogs

I remember when JFK was shot, the day my grandmother died, when my grandfather died, the day the Challenger exploded – and I remember 9/11. I turned the T.V. on that morning as I prepared for work and saw what I thought was an explosion in some building overseas. Yet another war, I thought. Does it ever end? So I changed the channel to see what the Today Show had to offer. There it was again, the tall building on fire. Then suddenly I saw as a plane hit a second building and knew this was something much more. I forgot what I was doing and sat down to watch.

Though I’m a long way from New York I felt the pain of all those who were lost that day as well as the friends and families. But the ray of sunshine that outshone the darkness of that day appeared almost immediately in the reactions of the first-responders. These were not just the on-the-job folks but even retirees, volunteers and eventually people from all over the world. Even more amazing not all of the workers were human. Search and Rescue dogs played a great role in the recovery from 9/11.

Dogs began working that first day helping to search for survivors and later for remains. But their secondary and unintentional job was to comfort the rescue workers as they struggled against their feelings of hopelessness and despair. Many other websites have addressed this aspect of the recovery from the 9/11 tragedies including:

In 2005 I adopted my dog, Blizzard. He showed an unusual ability to learn new tasks. Partly because of my memories of 9/11 and partly because Blizzard needed a job to focus his energy I looked into joining a local Search and Rescue (SAR) organization. I went to that first meeting with great anticipation looking forward to a rewarding career as a team member. I left that day knowing it would never happen. Blizzard passed the test and proved to be a promising recruit but I failed. First of all the physical rigors of SAR are great and I wasn’t sure I could handle them. Second, though I knew all costs of the training and work would be mine to provide, I had no idea how expensive it all was. And finally I realized that I would not be able to take off work at a moment’s notice to answer the call to service.

I continued to train Blizzard to “find” with treats and toys and he enjoyed the games, we never joined the ranks of the SAR teams. The experience gave me a greater appreciation for all that SAR teams must go through to even be accredited let alone what they go through while on the job.

Now, ten years after that fateful day, many of the hero dogs of 9/11 and the aftermath are gone. Let’s not let them be forgotten. Memorials have been set up to recognize their contributions, as well as a memorial to honor Sirius, the Port Authority dog that died in the WTC collapse. Please remember these dogs every time you look at your own faithful friend and be thankful that more SAR teams are being trained every day to answer the call to service.

Have you ever given your dog a job? Do you participate in SAR? I’d like to hear your stories!

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