Warning: you’re going to feel all the feels reading this story of the last living search dog from 9/11, a 15-year-old golden retriever named Bretagne.
Bretagne worked at Ground Zero in the days following the 9/11 attacks, and is believed to be the last living dog who worked there (the only other living dog, an English springer spaniel, worked on Staten Island). Bretagne is one of eight dogs currently being considered for the American Humane Association’s ‘Top Hero Dog’ award, and there’s honestly no way in hell she doesn’t win it.
TODAY show featured Bretagne (pronounced similar to Brittany) in a segment this morning:
As both a dog lover and owner, this really tugs at my heartstrings. I’ve lived in NYC for nearly eight years now, I wasn’t here for the 9/11 attacks or the immediate aftermath, so on that subject I cannot speak with authority, therefore I won’t begin to act like I know the first thing about how it was on that day thirteen years ago, and the days afterwards.
Therefore, I’ll summarize for you the TODAY Show’s segment/article, so you can get a feel for Bretagne’s place in history:
For the first time since the recovery efforts after the attack, Bretagne returned this week to the site of the former World Trade Center complex with her longtime handler and owner, Denise Corliss of Cypress, Texas. They were joined by NBC News’ Tom Brokaw, who told their story on TODAY on Thursday morning, Sept. 11.
Corliss fought back tears as she gazed at the 9/11 Memorial’s enormous waterfalls and reflecting pools, which are surrounded by bronze panels bearing the names of the nearly 3,000 people killed in the attacks.
“Seeing this kind of took my breath away a bit, similar to how the pile was the first time I saw it,” Corliss, 49, told TODAY.com. “It’s so calm and peaceful now, unlike the chaos of before.
“After 9/11, everybody — all of us — felt such sadness. We all wanted to help. I just felt so honored that we were able to respond.”
For the full account of Bretagne’s legacy as a rescue dog, and her experiences at Ground Zero following 9/11, you’ll have to read on the TODAY Show HERE, but for now here’s a few more clips:
In 2000, Corliss received news that thrilled her: She and Bretagne qualified as official members of Texas Task Force 1. This meant the pair had what it takes to scour a disaster site and find survivors buried in the rubble.
What they never could have anticipated was the site of their first deployment: The twisted pile of steel beams, concrete and ash where the World Trade Center once stood. It was a harrowing assignment for the most seasoned rescue workers, and it could be a frustrating one for search dogs because there were no human survivors to be found — only human remains.
“I really believed we could find somebody — anybody! — if we could just get to the right void space,” Corliss said. “But our reality was much different. We found all various kinds of remains, some recognizable, others not so much.”
Even though she had just turned 2 — an age when many canines relish romping, chewing and making mischief — Bretagne kept offering herself up to grim-faced first responders. On one occasion, Bretagne left Corliss’ side with urgency and hurried toward a sullen firefighter sitting on the ground. Concerned, Corliss implored Bretagne to come back, sit and stay — to no avail.
“I was surprised that she wasn’t listening to me, but she really wasn’t — it was like she was flipping me the paw,” Corliss said. “She went right to that firefighter and laid down next to him and put her head on his lap.”
Sorry guys, I can’t go any further. For more you’ll have to go read on TODAY here. This is just too much for me. 9/11 is the one day each year in which every person is allowed to grieve in their own way, and for now I’m shutting down, sorry I’m not sorry.
This dog is a goddamn here the likes of which I’ll never amount to, nor do I necessarily desire to. The world is a better place with Bretagne in it.
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