I was living in New York City during 9/11. I watched the first tower fall as I waited to use the public phone to let my family know I was okay. My memories of that day is one of sirens, flashing lights, incredibly kind New Yorkers (quite a miracle in itself) and a caustic, burnt smell in the air. I will never forget that day.
In remembrance, I’ll just be posting 9/11 material today. God bless America.
— Kenn Bell
NEW YORK CITY â€” Not enough can be said about the heroic individuals, both bipeds and quadrupeds, who lended their abilities to the security and rescue efforts in the wake of 9/11. With that said, here are a few pictures worth a few thousand words:
“If these dogs only knew what a difference they make. Certainly, there’s nothing that can replace the precision of a dog’s noseâ€”and absolutely nothing that can replace a dog’s heart.” â€” Bob Sessions, rescue worker, Federal Emergency Management Agency
“They go underneath into void spacesâ€”anywhere we can get the dogs in. The site is very difficult agility for the dogs. They’re crawling on their bellies and squeezing through things. It’s incredible to watch.” â€” Sharon Gattas, Riverside Urban Search and Rescue
“You can train all you want, but this is the mother lode. The dogs can feel it.” â€” Â Joe Caputo, NYC Police K-9 Unit
“They will search endlessly for that scent until they are called off.” â€” Lori Mohr, National Disaster Search Dog Foundation
“They may not cry to their fellow firemen or police, but somehow they open up to the dogs.” â€” Laura LoPresti, dog caretaker from Monroe Township, Missouri
“All they really want to do is work hard and love you. How can that not raise the human spirit in us all?” â€” Gerald Lauber, Suffolk County SPCA
“Some couldn’t take it anymore. Rescuers asked to play fetch with Thunder. But then they’d sneak off in a corner to just be with Thunder, or maybe to talk with him.” â€” Bob Sessions, rescue worker, Federal Emergency Management Agency
“Just petting a dog provides comfort to those who need itâ€”and where I am now, so many need it.” â€” Laura LoPresti, dog caretaker from Monroe Township, Missouri
The therapeutic value of dogs at the World Trade Center site has been widely recognized. CNN correspondent Kitty Pilgrim reports, “Not all dogs are soldiering through piles of rubble. One special unit was brought in to provide emotional support to rescue workers. They reach out to these dogs because it’s OK to.”
An unidentified rescue worker adds, “These dogs have been trained to pick up on trauma and goes towards it. So they pursue people they perceive as being in a state of trauma … We’ve been visiting a lot of firemen, police, and cleanup detail.”
And compassion is a two-way street. Exhausted, stressed and war-weary dogs receive the best care, both physical and mental, that humans can give.
“Worf” located the bodies of two missing firefighters on the first day. Overwhelmed, he lay down and curled up on the spot. The dog began shedding profusely, quit eating and refused to play with other dogs. His partner Mike Owens made the decision to retire the 12-year-old German Shepherd from search-and-rescue duty permanently. They are now back at home in Monroe, Ohio, where the entire town takes turns petting and playing with Worf.
“A Golden Retriever was carrying his handler’s helmet around the site in his mouth, bringing smiles to the grim faces he passed.” â€” Mac Daniel, The Boston Globe
It has become a common morale-booster for rescuers to stage mock “finds”, so that the dogs can feel successful.
“Morale is important… So it’s my job as handler to remove her from the pile … and then what we do is we set up a scenario for her that she can win at. We used a New York firefighter. He actually hid amongst a little bit of rubble … and we sent her on a search. She finds the firefighter. He plays with her real good. She’s real happy, and she’s ready to go to work again.” â€” Mark Bogush, Tampa Fire Rescue, speaking about his partner “Marley”
“The dog seeks a live person in hopes the survivor will play with him. He’s not finding a live person, so there is no one to play with him. So when I get home at night, I send my 12-year-old son to hide in the woods. Then Jax finds him and they play tug of war with a towel.” â€” Tom Fahy, Passaic County Sheriff’s Dept., speaking about his partner “Jax”
Their sense of smell has been estimated to be at least one million times more refined than ours; they have as many as 220,000,000 “sniffer” cells, compared to a human’s mere 5,000,000; they can detect sound vibrations at 250 yards that most humans can barely hear at 25; and most importantly, these marvelous workers are dedicated, determined and motivated beyond the limits of exhaustion like no human or machine could ever be.
But when they’re asleep, they’re still just adorable, fuzzy dogs, aren’t they? We’re reminded that these indefatigable multi-sensory trackers are just big puppies underneath it allâ€”like the saying goes: “Cold nose, warm heart.”
So let’s now take a moment to admire the “World Trade Center’s Sleepy Rescue Dogs” on a few of the rare occasions that we can catch them at rest, deeply engrossed in doggie-dreams.
“He’s used to working. He just worked a little too hard this time.” â€” Michael Norkelun of the Suffolk County SPCA, speaking about SAR dog “Ammo” snoozing nearby
Awake or asleep, these dogs are constantly at work, mending wounded spirits and providing an undying source of morale. There’s not a single veteran of “the pile” who will deny that dogs are providing just as much emotional support as technical guidance.
“He was a great, big guy, and he was just bawling. He was crying like a baby. He couldn’t talk, but he mouthed the words: ‘Thank you. Thank youâ€”and thank the dog.’ ” â€” Louis Wardoup, volunteer, describing how his partner Insee unearthed the hand of a firefighter in front of his FDNY comrades.
After the “search” effort was been downgraded to “recovery”, all of the 350 “live-find” dogs went home, and the overwhelming sense of loss at the WTC had never been so heavily punctuated.
But no effort as dedicated as the month-long canine SAR campaign can be hailed as anything less than triumphant and resoundingly successful. The mettle shown by these dogs and their human halves has affected the world in a way that should not be underestimated. Big mutts, little mutts, German Shepherds, Golden Labs, Black Labs, Yellow Labs, Collies, Rotties, Spanielsâ€”and even a few reports of feisty little Dachshundsâ€”have all reaffirmed the humble honor associated with the old WWII term “dogface”.
“We were very close; no matter where I went, he went. Whatever I asked him to do, he did. He never complained. Sometimes we’d be working for long hours, searching hundreds of cars or trucks, and he’d just look at me like, ‘What do you want me to do now?’ ” â€” Officer David Lim, Port Authority Police Dept., speaking about K-9 “Sirius”