When the World Trade Center collapsed on September 11, 2001, nearly 10,000 emergency rescue workers joined in the efforts to help. More than 300 of those heroes were dogs.
Volunteer firefighters, police officers, and rescue workers as well as their four-legged counterparts from around the world rushed to the aid of New York City and Washington D.C. in the days following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Search and rescue dogs (SAR) specialize in disaster response skills. Trained to search and detect the scent of living humans, their mission was to find survivors buried in the rubble.
The last living person rescued from Ground Zero 27 hours after the collapse was found by one of these search and rescue dogs. As the days went on, rescue and recovery workers soon realized the chance of finding survivors was slim, with rescue operations turning to a recovery mission and cadaver dogs, trained to find human remains, also on the scene.
Working alongside their handlers, the four-legged heroes worked tirelessly climbing huge piles of debris while fires still smoldered. The search for signs of life or human remains was mentally and physically taxing on the dogs, as the search dogs began to get discouraged and lose their drive to search. Aware of the importance of morale in these dogs and to keep their motivation high, their handlers would stage a “mock find” so the dog could feel successful. Veterinarians were stationed at the site to help care for these dogs. Working 12-hour shifts on the pile, the dogs needed to have their paw pads, eyes and nose cleaned often.
On Patriot’s Day, we remember and honor the Hero Dogs of 9/11 along with the countless people who had their lives irrevocably changed by man’s best friend. From search and rescue dogs to comfort dogs to bomb detection dogs, there canines’ stories of courage, healing, and long-lasting legacy must never be forgotten.
We will always remember.
Hundreds more loyal, devoted, and hardworking four-legged heroes risked life and limb on September 11 and the days and weeks that followed. Whether searching for survivors, locating remains, or simply being a source of comfort and hope during the bleakest moment in modern history, we must always remember and honor them.