They do the work that’s too dangerous and often impossible for people, and they do it amid the noises and stench that would make a normal person retch. But, they don’t complain. They are the Search and Rescue (SAR) dogs that are dispatched to the scene of natural and man-made disasters. On the 10th anniversary of 9/11 these unsung heroes who scoured the rubble of the World Trade Center towers and Pentagon for survivors, who tried to answer the desperate pleas, “Can you find my mom?” or “Can you find my son?” will be honored in a ceremony in downtown Manhattan.
Unfortunately, the dogs found few survivors, and that, to a SAR dog, is most
depressing. A SAR dog in training finds the whole exercise a game with a lovely reward at the end. During these sessions, the dog knows that he will be rewarded for finding the person who volunteered to be trapped under rubble, and that motivates him to search. He carries his enthusiasm and game-like spirit to the real world of finding survivors. Dogs become dispirited when they fail in their searches. I remember reading an account shortly after 9/11 of a handler whose dog worked in vain for hours day after day in search of survivors. The dog became disheartened to the point where after working, the handler had to send his son to hide in the woods by their house so that the dog could successfully find him, and this raised the dog’s spirit.
Sunday’s ceremony will be accessible by invitation only, but I hope that it will show up on youtube at a later date. I remember how moving it was to see these same dogs honored at the opening ceremony of a Westminster Dog Show shortly after the attacks. There were more dogs then. Now, 10 years later, of the 100+ dogs that were deployed, only 12 survive. I can just imagine how moving it will be to see these senior dogs, gray-muzzled, stiff-gaited, cloudy-eyed yet groomed and proud standing by their handlers as they receive recognition. I take my hat off to these teams. You are heroes, and I hold a prayer in my heart for those brave dogs that have since passed on.
Photo Credit: German Shepherd Dog and his Handler. Retrieved from http://herbgazin.livejournal.com/1427.html
Handler Comforts his Dog. Retrieved from http://dogblog.dogster.com/2011/09/07/remembering-heroic-911-dogs/
Honoring SAR dogs at Westminster Dog Show. Retrieved from http://petmemorialcards.com/mem2001-14c.html
Video Credit: TheDogFiles (2010, September 3). Dog Files-Ep. 11-Hero Dogs of 9/11 [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D91GQRX3YdY
- Canine heroes of 9/11 set example for new generation (windsorstar.com)
- Legacy of Sirius–the sniffer dog that died when one of the towers collapsed on him.