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.”
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.
Named for a mythical hunter and a constellation, search and rescue dog Orion has become a star in his old age.
The golden retriever, who lives in Vacaville with owner and handler Robert Macaulay, was one of more than 100 search and rescue dogs sent by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to New York City to help locate victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center. Now 13 years old, Orion and the 14 other 9/11 search and rescue dogs surviving a decade later are featured in a book, “Retrieved,” by photographer Charlotte Dumas, scheduled for publication this month.
He and Orion participated in the 9/11 search as volunteers with the Oakland Urban Search and Rescue Task Force, one of eight such groups in California. It was Orion’s first collapsed-building assignment. Because the dog had just passed the first of two certification tests, Macaulay said, they weren’t sent until two weeks after the attack.
“By that time,” he said, “we knew we were looking only for remains.”
Orion found three sets of remains.
His most successful search was of an outdoor patio area, 10 stories up.
“There was so much scent coming up the side of the building, I feared he might go over the edge,” Macaulay said.
Dumas, 34, said in a telephone interview that much of her previous work focused on fine art portraits of working animals, including police dogs and horses. She was researching a project on military dogs returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan when she learned about the dogs of 9/11. She took the dogs sent by FEMA as her domain and photographed the 15 that were still living from March through May of this year. Three of those dogs have since died, she said.
On one hand, she said, these dogs are just like the average dog, but as working animals, they exhibit a higher degree of concentration.
“They have a higher sense of responsibility,” Dumas said. “They’re not as carefree as most animals. They have a very serious side.”
Macaulay, a transportation and land-use planner with the Solano Transportation Authority, grew up in Reno and attributes his interest in search and rescue work to his experience as a Boy Scout.
“It’s about being prepared and citizenship, being a good member of society,” he said. “It’s how I can give back.”
Macaulay has trained dogs for both wilderness and structural search and rescue. He initially volunteered with the Sacramento Urban Search and Rescue Task Force. He and Orion’s predecessor, Quasar, participated in rescue efforts following the April 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
Macaulay and Orion also went to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, although because of the deep floodwaters, he said, search opportunities were limited.
Macaulay and Orion’s nephew, 4-year-old Helios, currently volunteer with the Menlo Park Urban Search and Rescue Task Force.
Retired, Orion no longer participates in official searches.
“But part of the bargain is that even when he is retired, I try not to let him know that,” Macaulay said. “He still goes out on training.”
For being the age equivalent of a human about 95 years old, “he’s still darn spry and active,” Macaulay said.
Dumas said it has been gratifying to see the public’s interest in these dogs, as word has circulated about the book.
Like Orion, most of the dogs went on to have long careers after 9/11, Dumas said.
“Now, after 10 years,” she said, “they get their moment to shine.”
WOBURN (CBS) – Only a handful search and rescue dogs deployed to Ground Zero are still alive, ten years after 9/11.
One of them is Moxie, a 13-year-old chocolate lab in retirement in Winthrop.
Her owner Mark Aliberti says she’s losing her hearing and her vision isn’t great, but it was her strong sense of smell that got her working on 9/11.
“These dogs are air scent dogs, which means they go out and sniff the air and they work their way in to the scent,” Aliberti told WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Bernice Corpuz. “I’d tell her to go find and she’d search and search and search. If she found somebody or found scent that she’s interested in, she’s trained to penetrate as much as she can, get as close as she can. When she can’t get any closer, she’s trained to start barking and continually bark and just stay there until I join her.”
I have been behind on blogging recently. Taking care of my three dogs and trying to get some freelance work by submitting graphic designs for bid proposals I want to catch up here so I am hoping to do a few 9-11 dog stories each day.
She may be retired now, but Red was one of the four-legged heroes in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks.
Red was among hundreds of other dogs who worked in New York and Washington, D.C. after the attacks, according to the video below from Reuters. She searched through the rubble at the Pentagon in 12-hour shifts in the hot sun, helping to recover dozens of bodies over several weeks.
Now 12-years-old and retired, the labrador occasionally tags along on search missions. She “still has the same love of the search,” according to the video report.
Her trainer, Heather Roche, explains that Red was not initially cut out for the job. “I never thought she would be a successful search dog,” she told Reuters. But no matter what I asked her to do … she did it every single time and she did it perfectly,” Roche added.
There are also over 530 police officers who work with bomb-sniffing dogs named after 9/11 victims.
There are organizations that work to train dogs, such as the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, which helps train dogs, mostly from shelters, to save human lives during disasters.
Doug Sahlberg and his cadaver dog Molly were at Ground Zero nearly ten years ago.
“Overwhelming,” says Doug Sahlberg of the Richmond Hill Police “That’s all I can say. Almost speechless.”
Sahlberg and his cadaver dog Molly were at ground zero nearly ten years ago.
He went with fellow Southside firefighter John Frank and his dog Morgan.
It’s something Sahlberg doesn’t like to talk about, but when he does, the memories are crystal clear.
“When I look back at the pictures it doesn’t seem like a long time ago. It seems like just yesterday,” Sahlberg says. “I haven’t looked at those pictures in years.”
Now a detective in Richmond Hill, Molly’s picture is right behind his desk.
She was only six years old when she passed away. Tests found toxins in her body from Ground Zero.
“It was an experience for her as well as I. When she first got back she was depressed; laying on the couch, and didn’t want to work. It definitely took at toll on her as well,” Sahlberg says.
Ten years later, physically, Sahlberg says he’s fine. His checkups show he’s healthy. But emotionally, it’s still hard. He says for all the first responders it always will be hard.
“We were recovering 150 to 200 pieces of human cadaver every shift and when I got home I chose not to eat meat for about a year. It was a little overwhelming,” Sahlberg says.
Instead of focusing on what he went through, the 20 hour shifts looking for bodies, he mostly wants to talk about the soldiers he says deserve the recognition.
Savannah, GA —
Remembering 9/11 and Local Cadaver Dogs Molly and Morgan
By: Kim Gusby
Published: September 09, 2011
In an instant, the world changed. But it’s what transpired moments after the Twin Towers went down… moments after flight 93 crashed into that Pennsylvania field… that Southside Fire Department Assistant Chief Hugh Futrell says he will never forget.
“We immediately started looking at alarm responses and what we were going to have to start thinking about in the way of possibilities and what could happen.”
First responders from all over the country answered FEMA’s call for help- including a local team of firefighters and their four legged companions.
“That evening we got our dog teams together. We got them loaded up and stuff. They drove straight through… Code 3… lights and sirens… stopping only for fuel… all the way to New York City.”
They arrived early the next morning… Lieutenant John Frank… Chief Doug Sahlberg… and K9s, Captain Morgan and Molly… the first cadaver dog teams on site at the World Trade Center.
For eight days they dug through the rubble… dealing with dust… debris… and devastation…
“Those dogs literally gave their lives for doing that. There’s no telling how much of that dust and other debris that was there that they actually inhaled… and probably shortened their lives to some degree.”
Morgan took a fall in the rubble but remained committed to her task of recovering the bodies of those lost.
Morgan and Molly returned home heros- unaware of the dangers they faced and the difference they’d made during our country’s darkest days.
“These were committed animals… and at the time a friend of the department… and a friend of the world. It’s just good to see they did what they did and provide us… all of us… with some comfort and closure.”
As we reflect and honor the lives lost and the sacrifices made, Futrell says let us not forget the service and bravery of Molly and Morgan- two K-9 emergency responders who ultimately proved to be man’s best friend.
Captain Morgan passed away in July of this year. Her partner, Molly, died in 2005.
Morgan a German Shepherd with her K9 Partner Molly a Yellow Labrador were some of the first cadaver dogs on the scene at Ground Zero on September the 11th. Cadaver dogs are given a extremely difficult job that no human or otherwise would want to do freely. It is in many ways a job without reward, in that there is no happy ending as they are finding a lifeless body or remains. These dogs are believed to be at times traumatized by the aspect of finding these bodies. It is upsetting to them to find the deceased person. The cadaver dog fully understands that these humans have ceased living, these dogs are not immune to the emotions of fear, sorrow and avoidance that we humans can feel surrounding death.
Morgan fell and was injured during the initial search but returned to duty as soon as she had seen a veterinarian. One can only imagine the massive amounts of hazardous chemicals, dust and contaminants and sharp objects these dogs had to endure.
Morgan was effected not only physically by the debris and toxic dust in the air at Ground Zero, but emotionally she needed to retire, so she did rest up until duty called her again, with another extremely tragic event in our nations history. When Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana there was another massive emergency call for help. Morgan courageously traveled to work and find those who had gone missing and ceased to be. It is probably just as important to find these deceased bodies as it is to find living bodies. Buddhism teaches that there is powerful Karma attached to caring for deceased bodies and helping the family and their spirit understand what has happened. Morgan and Molly’s job was thankless in many ways and it is something that most humans attach great fear and avoidance to death or any reminder of it such as bodies and remains. It is quite possible that Morgan has attained this highest Karma in helping scores of grieving family members.
If my life was to cease to be I could think of no greater spirit to see than a dog guiding me to the light, I can’t think of any being more trustworthy in life than the dog, so the same qualities of our dogs exist in death. I would imagine Morgan and Molly both and dogs like them are in many as guide dog for the souls who have fallen somewhere estranged from their families, giving not only closure to the family closure but a restful understanding to the soul of the departed.