Much of the 9/11 search and rescue relief would not be possible without the many dogs that contributed their help. It was hard to limit the list to only five dogs, as hundreds of dogs assisted with the rescue and relief effort. It’s fair to note that a variety of breeds were used in the SAR efforts, ranging from rat terriers and border collies to Portuguese Waterdogs and Labradors.
Many of these dogs worked in dangerous conditions that impacted the rest of their lives. FEMA issued a $400,000 grant in order to study the health and effects of the dogs that worked at Ground Zero. While the studies were inconclusive, many of these dogs witnessed horrifying scenes and worked in some of the most dangerous rescue conditions.
With the recent passing of Bretagne, the last surviving SAR dog from 9/11, we want to take a moment to acknowledge the dogs that served during the harrowing time of 9/11.
Here are their stories:
Bretagne and her owner Denise Croliss were members of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. They arrived on September 12, 2001 in New York to help find victims of the 9/11 attacks. Bretagne was allowed to move freely and without a leash over the 9/11 rubble. She was able to get into small spaces, crawl into dark holes, and was responsible for finding multiple deceased victims.
Bretagne later went on to respond to Hurricane Katrina and Rita victims. Bretagne passed away in June 2016.
You can see Bretagne receive her hero’s farewell here:
Born in 1999, Tivka was a Keeshound that became famous as a therapy dog in the post 9/11 aftermath. Her job was simply to comfort and console the victims and rescue workers.
Tivka was a part of the Hope Crisis Team of Eugene, Oregon and arrived in New York shortly after the attacks. Tivka was most importantly known for comforting people on the 20-minute ferry ride from mainland to Ground Zero, consoling those making the trip to say goodbye to victims who died in the attacks.
Ricky was born and adopted in 1998 by Janet Linker, a Seattle firefighter and dispatcher. Ricky joined the Puget Sound Urban Search and Rescue team. At only 18 pounds, Ricky was one of the smallest SAR dogs in the country. On September 19th, 2011, Ricky and Linker arrived at Ground Zero to roam the rubble and look for deceased victims.
Ricky’s small size allowed him to reach locations that larger dogs could not. He could also climb ladders and determine the difference between living and deceased victims. Ricky was able to get into collapsed subway tunnels to find victims, and even retrieved jewelry and personal items that were later returned to family members.
Jake was abandoned by his original owner, and at the age of 10 months was rescued off the streets with serious injuries. Mary Flood, who worked for the Federal Search and Rescue Team in Salt Lake City, adopted Jake. Jake became a U.S. government-certified rescue dog. He was trained to respond within 24 hours to disasters ranging from hurricanes and earthquakes to water rescue, terrorist attacks, and avalanches.
Trakr was a member of the Halifax Regional Police in Nova Scotia, Canada. After serving for 6 years as a police dog, he was set to be euthanized. His handler, James Symington, put Trakr into early retirement to prevent him from being put to sleep, as many working dogs faced homelessness after their services were no longer needed.
On September 12, 2001, Trakr arrived with Symington at Ground Zero and immediately went to work. He located one of the only 20 survivors of the attack, Genelle Guzman, who had been trapped for 26 hours before Trakr found her.
On September 14, Trakr collapsed from smoke and chemical inhalation. He was treated and released. The Halifax police force later suspended his handler for participating in the rescue efforts without permission. Once again, Symington took matters into his own hands, quit the force, and moved to Los Angeles.
Before passing away in 2009, Trakr won a contest as the world’s most “clone-worthy” dog. As a result, five of Trakr’s clones now exist – Trustt, Solace, Valor, Prodigy and Deja Vu. Trakr was also named one of history’s most heroic animals by Time magazine.