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)
COLUMBIA — Tuff walks toward her owner with slightly swollen hips, her hind legs wobbling slowly as she moves. Her elbows are calloused, and her brow and mouth peppered with gray hair.
But Tuff, 12, doesn’t stop watching Tom Andert for more than a second, a sign of her unwavering loyalty.
“Everything I can think of good in my life is because of Tuff,” Andert said, his eyes tearing up as he pats the chocolate Labrador.
Andert met his wife through Tuff. He got his job as an office manager at Horton Animal Hospital in the Forum Shopping Center thanks in part to Tuff. And he’s made many of his friends because of Tuff.
On the day of the Sept. 11 attacks, Andert and Tuff traveled to New York with Missouri Task Force 1, a Boone County-based search-and-rescue group that was dispatched to ground zero by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. They worked for more than a week, searching for survivors in the rubble of collapsed buildings near the twin towers.
It was dark when Tuff started her searches on the night of Sept. 12, 2001. There were people everywhere, Andert said, describing the scene as “utter chaos.”
“New York was a giant mound of steel and concrete dust,” he said. “To get to go with your dog to try to help … I’ve been very fortunate.”
Andert said Tuff is the first dog he’s had that he can truly call his own. And since he’s had her, Tuff has always been a part of him, he said.
He bought Tuff when she was 8 weeks old, wanting to train a search-and-rescue dog. His friend, Cathy Schiltz of Ashland, helped pick her out. The two met during an EMT class and would later become partners at ground zero.
For two and a half years, Andert trained Tuff as a “live find” search dog to look for survivors in collapsed buildings. Tuff and Andert went to practice search sites around Missouri — and as far as Indiana and Nebraska — every weekend.
“It’s a game of hide and seek for the dogs,” Andert said, and Tuff was always “ready to go.”
Andert spoke proudly of the day Tuff ran straight into a cinder block during a training exercise. She broke all her front teeth and skinned her chest down to her abdomen. “It didn’t even faze her,” he said.
Still, he took Tuff to Horton Animal Hospital, where Jennifer Eichelberger was working as a receptionist. They’d met previously while tailgating at MU games, and they worked together as volunteer firefighters with the Boone County Fire Protection District.
His visits to Horton Animal Hospital became more frequent when Tuff repeatedly scraped her chest during training or a stick went through her paw and she needed her dressings cleaned.
Women Andert had dated before didn’t understand his bond with Tuff and the time commitment that search-and-rescue training took.
“With Jennifer, I’d say that I had to go home to let Tuff out, and she’d ask, ‘Why don’t you just bring her along next time?'” Andert said. “She understood that bond.”
Andert and Eichelberger married on Oct. 16, 2002.
Canine search efforts often consist of a pair of dogs working together, with the second dog searching behind the first to verify finds. In New York, Tuff’s partner was Hawk, Schiltz’s Australian shepherd, who was 8 years old at the time.
Going to New York was scary, Schiltz said. “We didn’t know what to expect.”
The relief workers in New York weren’t used to seeing the dogs work the way they did — “naked,” with no collars, leashes or special boots, Schiltz said. “When they did ask us to clear areas, they were really impressed with the range the dogs covered.”
Despite their efforts, Tuff and Hawk found no survivors at ground zero.
Hawk died in late 2007 at age 14.
Tuff and Andert returned to Missouri nine days after being dispatched. For Andert, working in New York made him realize what was most important to him: Settling down and starting a family.
The transition from search-and-rescue dog to family dog was easy for Tuff, Andert said.
These days, Tuff spends most of her time being a “couch potato,” Andert said. She goes to work with him at the animal hospital every Tuesday. Tuff’s routine is simple: Greet the kennel staff, get fed and fall asleep between the receptionists in the front office.
“I just love this dog,” Andert said. “You build a bond, you know.”