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.”
I want to launch this attempt at honoring heroic dogs on this day. Ten years after the attacks on the United States I can think of no better moment to start writing on these companions dogs, working dogs, street dogs and nameless strays who have saved others without hesitation for their own life in danger. I hope to honor what will be remembered as infamous in the history of the world, as well as a day of marked, bravery , courage and heroism. We saw the worst aspects of humankind and the best aspects of humans and yes dogs working together to rescue, recover and heal the wounds drawn by the terrorist attack in New York, on Flight 96 and the Pentagon.
I will dedicate most of this months posts to the 9/11 search and rescue dogs.
For this first entry, I would like to honor Sirius the only dog to perish in the attack on the World Trade center. Sirius was a Yellow Labrador assigned to bomb detection at the World Trade Center his handler and companion was officer David Lim. The officer had left Sirius in his kennel to go to the emergency situation on the first tower hit. At the time he was not sure what had happened thinking it was a bomb however he thought the safest place for Sirius would be in the basement of Tower Two where his kennel was and freed the officer to attend to rescue in Tower One. Consequently David Lim was buried in the rubble and found 5 hours later. Thr bond between Officer David Lim and Sirius was very true; “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?’ “.Sirius body was not found until January 22nd 2002. Officer David Lim rushed to be there for his fallen partner. All machines were silenced as Officer Lim carried his companion draped in the Flag of the United States and Sirius was given full police honors, His promise to his companion, fellow officer was fulfilled.