People across the country this week are remembering the tragic events surrounding 9/11, While we will forever honor those who lost their lives and the first responders who spent countless hours on-site, we also would like to also like to acknowledge another group of first responders: the four-legged heroes that rescued and comforted countless people both following the attack and today.
Among the thousands of responders who answered the call after the events of 9/11, roughly 300 dog teams arrived at Ground Zero, though only 100 were equipped to handle what they found there. Amid the smoldering ash and steel remains of the towers, search and rescue teams of all kinds took to the wreckage, working for countless hours in the heat and smoke. These canines worked tirelessly. The last living person rescued from Ground Zero was discovered by one of these search and rescue teams, almost 27 hours after the collapse.
“It was life-changing,” says Cynthia Otto of The Penn Vet Working Dog Center who helped tend to the dogs’ needs and wounds in the days of searching. “To me, it was the first time that search and rescue dogs took the center stage and that people recognized the value and impact that these dogs were having.”
The work of these canines was considered a “ray of sunshine” (AKC) during the otherwise incredibly bleak scope of events. The work of these search and rescue canines sparked not only an increase in dog-owners who wished to pursue certifications for their family dogs but a series of studies and financial support for the SDF – National Disaster Search Dog Foundation – a national training center for disaster response canine teams. But search and rescue wasn’t the only service canines provided during this tragedy.
Due to widespread grief caused by the tragedy of 9/11, therapy dogs were also in high demand at the family assistance centers the Red Cross had set up surrounding Ground Zero. A one-year-old Keeshond named Tikva quickly captured the hearts of the public “when she helped comfort many bereft people after the attack on the World Trade Center” (Daily News). Her story is only one of the hundreds of therapy dogs that helped bring comfort to New York on September 11.
In the time since 9/11, dogs have gone from simply being pets to having a working status. It’s scary to think about where we’d be without these incredible canines. It’s a good thing we don’t have to.
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