it remains to be seen what lingering, chronic affects could haunt our canine heroes in months or years to come.
“They were covered in soot, asbestos,” says John Stevenson, president of North Shore Animal League America, operating a canine treatment center at the WTC. “There were so many toxins that it’s unreal more of them didn’t get sick.”
Let’s take a look at one pooch (who was recently written into the Guinness Book of Worlds Records as the “Most Celebrated Dog in the World”), a WTC rescuer who’s not holding up so well these days, according to recent reports…
“Am I killing the only thing I really got left that I love in the world?”
Those were the words Capt. Scott Shields uttered aloud as he walked into “Ground Zero” with his canine half. But, like each of the SAR handlers, Capt. Shields knew the risks and still pushed onward with his highly-experienced Golden Retriever “Bear”.
The team was operating with Marine Safety Service, a private security company that helps guard New York Harbor. In the months of recovery following 9/11, Bear helped locate dozens of bodies, including that of beloved FDNY Chief Peter Ganci, says the New York Post. (And if the golden snout in the picture looks familiar, your eyes don’t deceive you; Bear has graced our pages more than once before. See WTC Dogs Page 1 and the WTC Yearbook.)
However, Bear’s heroics came at a price.
“Bear worked tirelessly for months, and until this terrible tragedy he had never been sick a day in his life,” remarks Capt. Shields.
In January, in order to help with the WTC dogs’ healthcare, Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI – Anaheim, California) offered 300 free one-year policies to all SAR dogs involved in the Sept. 11 efforts, including Bear. But last week, Bear was denied coverage, based on the assessment that his ills fell under the category of “old age disabilities” that are not covered. Bear’s unpaid veterinary bills amounted to $3,000.
“This isn’t personal,” said VPI’s vice president of claims Elizabeth Hodgkins last week. “Bear just didn’t meet the requirements.”
So far, 71 owners have filed claims for their dogs, Ms. Hodgkins said, and only five have been rejected.
But as soon as word leaked out that “the WTC’s first rescue dog” was hosed, a handful of contributors stepped up, willing to cover the pooch’s vet expenses and provide lifetime medical care.
In the end, Dr. Jack Stephens, CEO and founder of VPI, said he made a mistake and announced that his firm will pay for Bear.
Dr. Chaitman says: “We all have an obligation to these dogs. They really are like public servants and we should take care of them.”
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.
Lynne Engelbert & “Lucy”, age 10½
California Task Force 4 (Oakland, CA).
“We worked 12-15 hrs., went through decon and back to the Javits where she was greeted by the VMAT folks (they were awesome!), bathed in warm water, given her nose-to-tail vet check, fed, walked and then I would go take care of me. Usually when I returned from the shower, she would be out playing tug with the firefighters. Endless energy! Lucy was able to locate numerous remains and help to bring closure for several families … There are no credits on the rooftop shot. I just handed my camera to a nearby firefighter and asked him to take some shots. The rubble site shot was on the Marriott hotel site where Lucy located the remains of a firefighter. This photo was taken by Tom Clark, Structural Specialist with CA TF4 … Thank you for your efforts to recognize these wonderful animals.” — Lynne Engelbert.
NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. (USA) — As a rule, emergency rescuers don’t hesitate to consider their own hides. Sadly, there were 341 brave firefighters who died by that credo in the Sept. 11 horror last year. And, not to be overlooked, just as many dogs were just as eager to rush toward an uncertain fate for the sake of duty.
Only one dog died in the World Trade Center1, but the risks taken by each of the estimated 350 search-and-rescue (SAR) pooches were immense, nonetheless. They walked on shattered glass, stuck their noses into concrete dust and crawled on their bellies through cavities that even rats were too afraid to explore. So what exactly is the price for such devotion?
Skin cancer, prostatitis, nerve damage and arthritis are a few of the ailments that are dogging “Bear”, a 12-year-old Golden Retriever who sniffed through the rubble for three months. But we’ll get to Bear’s story in a minute. First, let’s hear the facts agreed upon by most veterinarians and handlers.
“The University of Penn is doing a study of the teams that worked the WTC and Pentagon,” says Lynne Engelbert, a rescuer with California Task Force 4, “So we will find out in about 3 years if there are any ill effects.
“Lucy (left) didn’t have any issues at all. And she was 10½ years old at the time. She worked the rubble like a puppy … I know more of the teams that worked either the WTC or the Pentagon and know of nothing so far in any of them.”
Indeed, if there’s one indisputable point, it’s that the ASPCA, Suffolk County SPCA, VMAT and “doggy M*A*S*H” units took good care of our four-legged helpers (and we can’t overlook the TLC from a few volunteer dog-chiropractors on site who offered some professional back-rubs). But even with such expert care, our canine first-aid teams were not infallible.
For one, there’s no accounting for the psychological trauma that possibly could have affected some of the dogs. Fortunately, though, most dogs who have been trained in disaster recovery were well prepared for the “smell of death”.
As Ms. Engelbert explains: “This is what Lucy and I train to do. Although the site was massive and the devastation total, we were ready to go to work and did so as soon as we could. …finding the dead isn’t new to us. Although we would much prefer to find the living, helping to bring closure for the families of the victims was also gratifying. Knowing the families had ‘something’ definitive and could go on with their lives brings a sense of accomplishment.
“Neither one of us have had any emotional issues as a result of this deployment.”
full article here;:http://dogsinthenews.com/issues/0207/articles/020723a.htm
Ricky the Smallest Rescue Dog at the World Trade Center
“Even the tiniest Poodle or Chihuahua is still a wolf at heart.”
— Dorothy Hinshaw Patent,
Dogs: The Wolf Within
SEATTLE, WA (USA) — We’ve all heard about the German Shepherds, the Rottweilers, Labs and Bloodhounds who combed the fallen World Trade Center in search of victims last month, but what about the lap dogs? They’re no exception to the courageous canine list.
Last week, the Seattle City Council held a ceremony to honor a few of the brave souls who helped with New York City search-and-rescue (SAR) efforts: 62 firefighters, police, doctors, engineers and public-safety personnel, all working with Puget Sound Urban Search and Rescue. Also invited to the podium were four SAR dogs, including one so small that many people in the audience had to squint to get a good look at him—that would be “Ricky” the Rat Terrier.
Ricky, measuring in at 17″ and 280 ounces, didn’t let his diminutive size deter him from his duties at “the pile”. In fact, he worked his tininess to his advantage, squeezing into holes that other dogs and robots were too large to navigate. Ricky and his trainer, Janet Linker of the Seattle Fire Department, searched the ruins for 10 days, helping to find the bodies of several victims, according to The Seattle Times.
At two years old, Ricky can climb aluminum ladders, run complex patterns on command and differentiate between the living and the dead. On June 17, 2000, Ricky attained the official certification at Basic Level after proving that he can search through piles of concrete at a site the size of half a baseball field, finding three victims in less than 10 minutes, unfazed by bulldozers, jackhammers, cats in cages and dirty laundry set up as distractions. Even so, the carnage at the World Trade Center site pushed Ricky’s abilities beyond anything he’d ever experienced.
“There were a few situations where we had to climb underneath metal beams, and the space just kept getting smaller and smaller,” says Ms. Linker, who works for Northwest Disaster Search Dogs.
She and Ricky worked closely with another SAR pair, Kent Olson (forensic therapist at Western State Hospital) and a 5-year-old Golden Retriever named “Thunder”, working the two dogs’ abilities in tandem. Ricky would wriggle into tight spots that 64-lb. Thunder could not manage, and Thunder, a more experienced dog (certified Advanced Level) would verify Ricky’s finds.
When Ricky found a body, he would signal by standing very still and looking at his handler intently with all the fur on his body standing up; Thunder would confirm the find by lying down as his signal to his partner. Rescuers would then know exactly where to dig.
Both dogs’ indication of a “live find” was to have been a bark, but unfortunately they never had the chance to make that signal.
“It’s really hard to know exactly how many people Ricky helped find,” says Ms. Linker. “I saw them take a policeman and a firefighter out from areas that we had just searched. I don’t know how many people were in the stairwell. There were lots of people in there. They were gone, not alive.”
In a disaster response of unprecedented magnitude, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) deployed 25 of its 28 nationwide task forces to the WTC and the Pentagon. In all, there were 80 FEMA-certified dogs at work. The effort was joined by the NYC Police K9 Corps, as well as some 300 search dogs from around the country. And don’t make the mistake of overlooking the Port Authority dogs, airport security dogs and therapy dogs who contributed immeasurably.
Revisiting a place they’ll never forget,
FEMA US&R Task Force 1 members “Hawk” and Cathy Schiltz take a moment to reflect at Ground Zero in New York, which they haven’t seen since last September. Hawk, an Australian Shepherd, never found any survivors, only the remains of dozens of victims. Says Ms. Schiltz: “Sometimes he would look at me as if to say, ‘Sorry.’ ” (Photo: Lauren Hobart / FEMA)
On Sept. 12, 2001, Canine Search Specialist Sheila McKee rode by bus into Manhattan for the first time.
As they approached, she recalled she could see the smoke rising from the scene.
“We train a lot, but I don’t think you can ever train or be prepared for a disaster of that magnitude,” said the Highland resident. “I don’t think that anybody who worked that particular tragedy was ready for what we experienced. There is a bit of naiveté.”
McKee and her husband, David Graves, then an engineer with the Redlands Fire Department, joined a group of canine handlers as part of Riverside Urban Search and Rescue Task Force Six sent to Ground Zero to help with the search for survivors following the attacks.
She and Guinness, her yellow Labrador retriever, were on the pile for much of 10 days, she said. They found no survivors, she said.
“It took a moment to realize even the computers, the chairs, even the desks were gone,” she said.
Guinness is now one of only 12 Sept. 11 search dogs who are still living. He’s losing his vision and is a bit unsteady on the hardwood floors at the McKee/Graves home.
She has not been back to New York since, but thinks she may soon be ready to return. Looking back, she said her strongest memory is that of New York’s residents.
“We were in these huge buses and the caravan a mile long,” she said. “We had all these teams and equipment – we carry upwards of 70,000 pounds of equipment for us – and there’s 80 personnel. As we’re coming in, the streets were lined with people. They could see us coming and they all stood on the street and they waved at us and they clapped. I remember being terribly emotional because we were at that moment overwhelmed and connecting with these people.”