Tribute and Memorial to the Search and Rescue Dogs of 9-11: Words and Images

September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City: V...

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They had come to work. To get down to the business they were trained for.

They represented many states.

They represented local and federal agencies.

They traveled and arrived with their family persons and their handlers. They were very small, medium and large, black, brown, yellow, red and multi-hued. They answered to names as patrician as  Jolie Mome De Chipye Rossi and Sonne Varena von der Birkenheide, as quirky as Sunflower’s Summer Stardust and NiCad Batteries Rechargeable, as working class as Tuff, Socks and Riley. Many were specially trained former rescues. Some were family companions. They worked long and tireless hours, sometimes suffering from abrasions, inhalation problems, dehydration, fatigue and frustration. They went to the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, the Staten Island landfill. And each arrived with a common mission: to rescue the living…to locate the dead. And finally, when there was neither, they provided comfort for the first responders. They are the four-legged first responders. They are the search-and-rescue dogs of 9-11.

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I don’t claim that this is an exhaustive representaion (I’ve read that 100 dogs were deployed). Fifteen breeds — deployed as Controls and/or at the World Trade Center, Pentagon and Staten Island Landfill — are represented in the following 80-image photographic tribute.

German Shepherds — 20: Anna, Jake B., Ellie, Dylan B., Emma, Ivey, Geist, Coyote, Socks, Jason, Thor, Ronnie, Rosco, Griz, Cholo, Git Ander, Taz, Ruger, Trakr, Kaiser

Labrador Retrievers — 17: Gus, Kita, Kinsey, Jake F., Ohlin, Lucas, Thunder, Jethro (no photo: Study Control, 1989-2004), Jenner, Sirius, Abigail, Guinness, Melvyn, Moxie, Red, Tara, Tuff

Belgian Shepherd (Malinois) — 2: Piper, Servus

Airedale Terrier — 1: Dakota

Rat Terrier — 1: Ricky

Bloodhound — 1: Mollee

Border Collie — 3: Lucy, Pepe, Sheridan

Belgian Tervuren — 11: Snowflake, Topper

Doberman Pinscher — 1: Sunnyboy

Golden Retriever — 6: Sam, Scout, Louie, Riley, NiCad

Rottweiler — 1: Kali

Beauceron –1: Jolie

Doberman/Australian Cattle Dog — 1: Ditto

Australian Shepherd — 1: Morning Glory

Hovawart–1: Sonne

According to the NYPD, the New York Fire Department and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, out of the nearly 100 dogs among the first responders deployed by FEMA, there were in fact only 15 still alive last year. These dogs are still living:

Abigail, Bretagne, Guiness, Kaiser, Melvyn, Moxie, Red, Tara and Tuff.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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A three-year study (2006-2009) of the effects of the 9-11 canine search-and-rescue missions was lead by Cynthia M. Otto, lead researcher and associate professor of critical care at Penn State’s School of Veterinary Medicine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The dogs (and their handlers) put in an average seven to 10 days at the World Trade Center and Pentagon sites, and these sites were thick with potential carcinogens such as asbestos and diesel fuel and “unthinkable” amounts of those unknown. The research team will pay special attention to the incidence of cancer.

“Few dogs at the World Trade Center and Pentagon suffered acute injuries,” said Otto, “but during the next three years we expect them to serve as our sentinels on long-term consequences.”

FEMA dogs underwent intensive, periodic examinations by their local veterinarians, while those brought in by private individuals were assessed through surveys of their handlers. The questionnaires focused on behavioral disorders, such as aggression or fearfulness possibly caused by long hours of work without adequate play or the reward of finding live victims. As time passes without survivors found, search-and-rescue dogs — especially those trained to find living people — experience increased stress and depression. One way this is mitigated is for handlers and trainers to stage mock “finds” so that the dogs can feel successful. Many dogs suffer from stress and depression. For example, Worf, a then 12-year-old German Shepherd (Southwestern Ohio K-9 Search and Rescue), located the bodies of two missing firefighters on the first day, then, overwhelmed, Worf  lay down and curled up on the spot. He was soon shedding profusely, not eating and refusing to play with other dogs. Mike Owens, his partner, decided to permanently retire Worf from search-and-rescue duty and return to their home in Monroe, Ohio. “There was so much death there,” Owens said, “it was emotional for the dogs.”

Support for the study came from the AKC Canine Health Foundation, the American Kennel Club, Ralston Purina Co., Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. The study also included researchers at Michigan State University and the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

I’d like to make a special mention of  Wilma Melville, a woman who helps rescued dogs find new life as search and rescuers.

National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, her nonprofit organization, has a cooperative relationship with firefighters who train the rescues to save lives after a disaster.

(to read an interview with Wilma Melville, follow this link:

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Three Stories of  Devotion

Sirius, Explosives Detection Dog

Sirius (photo part of slide show),  a yellow labrador, was the only animal to die on 9/11. He died serving his country on September 11th.

A member of the Police K-9 unit, Sirius was a bomb detection dog with the NY/NJ Port Authority Police Department. He and his partner, Police Officer David Lim, were assigned to the World Trade Center.
The morning of September 11, 2001, Sirius and Officer Lim were at their Port Authority Police Station in the basement of the World Trade Center’s Tower Two. When Officer Lim heard the sound of an explosion, he thought a bomb had gone off inside the building, and he commented to Sirius, ” … one must have gotten by us.”

Thinking he’d be more effective freehanded, Officer Lim left Sirius in his kennel, telling him, “I’ll be back to get you,” as he rushed off to help with the rescue effort. At that time, he couldn’t think of a safer place for his canine companion to be than in the basement while he was up doing the rescues.

Officer Lim didn’t make it back though. He became trapped in the falling debris of Tower One and wasn’t pulled out until more than five hours later. Sirius, however, perished in the tragedy, leaving Officer Lim without his faithful partner.

“He was very special. All dogs go home with us, so not only was he my partner, but he was also my pet and my friend.” The bond between a K-9 and his master is special, and while David realizes the human tragedy will overshadow the death of his dog, he still misses Sirius. “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?’ ”

On January 22, 2002, Sirius’ body was recovered. When Officer Lim was notified that the kennel had been found, he rushed to Ground Zero to be there for the recovery of his dog. From all accounts, Sirius was killed instantly. He received full Police Honors when his body was carried out. All the great machines were silenced, and everyone lined up and saluted as Officer Lim carried his flag draped companion to a waiting police truck.

It was a tough day for David, but he fulfilled the promise he made to Sirius back on September 11, 2001. David was quoted as saying, “He waited and I came back.” The American flag which had covered the body of Sirius was given to Officer Lim, who says he will cherish it always. A 5th Grade class in Illinois purchased an oak Memorial Flag box for him to keep it in.

Sirius’ remains were cremated. Officer Lim collected the ashes and has them in a beautiful oak urn at home. A Memorial Service for Sirius was held on April 24, 2002 at Liberty State Park in NJ. 

Git Ander, Police Dog

After searching for survivors in the rubble of the World Trade Center, Git Ander (German for “Get Under”) (photo part of slide show), a seven year old German Shepherd returned to duty as a police canine in Plainfield, New Jersey. On the night of September 26, 2001, Git Ander and his handler, Sergeant John Gillespie, arrived at the scene of a reported stolen car. The suspects fled on foot. Sergeant Gillespie pursued the eighteen year old driver while Git Ander was ordered to chase after and apprehend the other passenger who was a twelve year old girl. Git Ander apprehended the passenger. The dog had been trained not to release his hold on the suspect until his handler commanded him to do so. Minutes before his handler showed up, two other police officers arrived on the scene. Despite the fact that Git Ander wore a police badge on his collar, Officers Ronald Fusco and Craig Montgomery fatally shot the dog eleven times thinking it was a stray. Sgt. Gillespie arrived just as his dog died. Even in the face of repeated gunfire, the dog faithfully followed his handler’s commands.


Servus (photo part of slide show), a 9-year-old Belgium shepherd, and his partner Chris, were looking for survivors on September 13 when Servus fell into a cloud of white dust.  Servus had landed in a pile of white ash from the destruction of the World Trade Center.  The dust had gone right into Servus’s nose and mouth and Servus was suffocating.  Quickly his partner Chris picked up Servus and got down the hill and started calling for help.  Servus was dying.  Soon many people came running to help the dog, including a nurse.  She started to give Servus an IV of fluids while firemen poured water onto Servus’s face.  After a few seconds all the dust, which turned out to be concrete came running out of his mouth and nose.  Servus was still having a hard time trying to breath so they found an ambulance and they rushed him to an animal hospital where veterinarians took care of him.  After a few hours they let Servus go, but he could not work anymore.  His nostrils were so sore he would not be able to smell for scents.

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Not SAR Dogs, But Two Beautiful Guide Dog Stories


Roselle, a guide dog for the seeing impaired, and her owner, Michael Hingson, were working on the 78th floor offices of the World TradeCenter when they heard and felt the impact of the airplane that smashed into the floors above. In perfect guide dog form, Roselle stayed calm, carefully lead Hingson and a coworker to the stairwell and down for over an hour until they reached safety. She didn’t bark, she didn’t whine, she didn’t flinch. Even the firefighters who rushed past them to try and help the people trapped on the burning floors didn’t phase her. “A few of them petted Roselle, and she licked their hands. I realize that was the last unconditional love those guys experienced.” Hingson said.

Michael Hingson with Roselle

Fifteen minutes after the pair made it safely out of the building, the first tower began to fall. Roselle picked up the pace, and Hingson ran alongside her. “I’m the team leader,” Hingson said, “but her job is to tell me when to walk and when not to walk. My responsibility is to trust her. On that day, when she ran, I ran.” Roselle received the animal equivalent of the Victorian Cross from the British government for her devotion to her duty.

In the aftershock of the worst terrorist gambit ever to hit the USA, we learn that the greatest inspiration can be found in the words, images and televised coverage of the American peoples’ patriotic strength.  But now, pan the cameras down a bit, and you’ll find, just as heartening, the nation’s dogs also upholding this great spirit of gallantry.


New York resident Omar Eduardo Rivera was unfortunate enough to find himself on the 71st floor of the World Trade Center north tower when the hijacked airliner struck the building 25 floors above him.  Mr. Rivera, a computer technician who is blind, was in his office with his guide dog “Dorado” lying under the desk at the time.

Blind owner seated with dog Dorado at foot

Omar Eduardo Rivera and Dorado

According to the Contra Costa Timesreport published today, Mr. Rivera described how he unleashed his faithful friend, so that the dog might escape.  But despite the chaos and the crowds of fleeing people, the four-year-old Labrador Retriever suppressed any selfish instinct for survival and instead stayed by the man’s side and guided him to safety.

Mr. Rivera describes the drama:

“I stood up and I could hear how pieces of glass were flying around and falling.  I could feel the smoke filling up my lungs and the heat was just unbearable.

“Not having any sight I knew I wouldn’t be able to run down the stairs and through all the obstacles like other people.  I was resigned to dying and decided to free Dorado to give him a chance of escape. It wasn’t fair that we should both die in that hell.

“I thought I was lost forever—the noise and the heat were terrifying—but I had to give Dorado the chance of escape.  So I unclipped his lead, ruffled his head, gave him a nudge and ordered Dorado to go.

“I hoped he would be able to quickly run down the stairs without me and get to safety. I thought he’d be so scared he’d run.  Everything was in chaos. Glass was shattering around my head and people were rushing past down the stairs.”

At that point, Dorado was swept away by the rush of people fleeing down the stairs, and Mr. Rivera found himself on his own for several minutes amid the pandemonium.  But then the unexpected occurred, in the form of a familiar, fuzzy nudge from knee-high.

Mr. Rivera explains, “He returned to my side a few minutes later and guided me down 70 flights and out into the street, it was amazing.  It was then I knew for certain he loved me just as much as I loved him. He was prepared to die in the hope he might save my life.”

Inside the egress stairwell, they found some additional assistance from a co-worker.  “I took hold of her arm. She went down on my right side and the dog on my left,” says Mr. Rivera.

The narrow stairwell was extremely crowded, and confusion exacerbated the situation.  “People were pushing and shoving past me.  Everywhere there was a sense of terror.”

But according to the man, order gradually prevailed: “…most people behaved quite prudently and grasped what was happening, so we walked down in an orderly fashion, but it was slow going.  It was slow going because there were so many people struggling to get out but Dorado kept nudging me down step by step.”

It took more than an hour for Dorado, Mr. Rivera and his co-worker to descend those 70 flights of stairs.  Not long after they had reached the ground and gotten to safety, the tower collapsed.

Says Mr. Rivera, “I owe my life to Dorado—my companion and best friend.”

(Story credit:

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About Amirh

Ever-evolving spirit moving about via body. I'm a writer and a an ever-evolving spirit in service of animals through my blog and Buddhist and Reiki practices. My blogs: and For more about me:
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35 Responses to Tribute and Memorial to the Search and Rescue Dogs of 9-11: Words and Images

  1. Pingback: An amazing tribute and a message | The Christian Gazette

  2. Pingback: An amazing tribute and a message(via Diary Of A Mad Conservative) | My Blog

  3. Allin says:

    Amirh, this is such a moving tribute to these unsung heroes of 9/11! The research and effort behind putting this together is definitely felt. What a beautiful testament to these courageous workers to help find people and put closure to this tragedy for so many families.

  4. rattlerjen says:

    Thank you for posting such a wonderful and comprehensive blog on the efforts of the Urban Search and Rescue Dogs. I flew with my search and rescue dog, Grom on September 11th this year not thinking much about the date when booking the trip online as we simply needed to be home for work on Monday.
    I was nearly brought to tears when we were stopped in the middle of TSA security. Everything became quiet, even the machines stopped their whirring and beeping, as everyone in the airport stood still for a full minute of silence. Grom is only two years old and only recently certified as an operational search and rescue K9. Neither of us were doing SAR when the tragedies occurred. I only hope to live up to the thanks we were given that day. Most search and rescue people are highly trained volunteers. We hope never to see a tragedy like 9-11, but we all hope to make those who were there very proud.
    There are so few blogs out there about the work we do and was glad to run across your post. Thank you

    • Amirh says:

      Thanks for finding and appreciating the tribute. I really respect the work that you guys do and I wanted to find some way to express that. Good luck to you and Grom.

  5. Pingback: Roselle – Heroine Dog | Dogs in Singapore

  6. I’m very saddened by the loss of the many hero dogs that were at Ground Zero September 11th 2001 I was the proud owner of a rescue dog who since passed on. I have another dog right now he is my best buddy. people do not realize what does rescue dogs and canines did at Ground Zero. my prayers and love go out to them and their handlers. God bless them and the USA

  7. My love and prayers go out to the many dogs that were at Ground 0 of September 11th 2001. And to the hero canines and dogs have passed on since 2001 my prayers and love go out to them and their hand dollars for the courageous job done. I was a proud owner of a rescue dog web passed away I know what is to lose the best friend. I have since have another dog he is my buddy. again my prayers in love go out to the dogs and their handlers and God bless them and the USA

    • Amirh says:

      Vince, thanks for stopping by. I’m sorry that my slide show still needs work – I had another site for the pi but they went out of business, so I have to reconfigure everything, and there were a lot of photos. Condolences on the passing of your rescue dog and best friend. When the slide show is up and running I’ll drop you an email and you can come by again. Amirh

  8. I have read so many articles on the topic of the blogger lovers
    however this post is really a nice piece of writing, keep it up.

  9. Sol says:

    Hey there! Quick question that’s totally off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly? My website looks weird when viewing from my apple iphone. I’m trying to find a theme or
    plugin that might be able to correct this issue.
    If you have any recommendations, please share.
    Appreciate it!

    • Amirh says:

      If you download the WordPress app, I believe you can choose views for your blog — full or mobile. I have an Android system, so I can’t speak to Apple’s. good luck.

  10. This blog was… how do I say it? Relevant!
    ! Finally I have found something that helped me. Many thanks!

  11. Crrupu says:

    Part about the dog giving the firefighters their last moment of unconditional love is intense.

  12. bacontender says:

    Just a side note: I think you mean Pennsylvania University (Penn U). Pennsylvania STATE University (Penn State) doesn’t have a veterinary school.

    Otherwise, great article and a good read! 🙂 Thanks to those dogs and people who helped search for survivors and acted when the call of duty called upon them. You’re our heroes.

  13. S Ville says:

    Without denigrating the memory of the tragedy and the trials and actions of our loyal friends, the fact is that ten years had passed between the day the towers fell and this post. Dogs have an average lifespan of 10-12 years (a simple Google search yields 9-13 yrs for German shepherds and 10-12 years for golden retrievers). That 15 of 100 remained alive ten years later is no surprise given their longevity; while they likely suffered ill effects immediately after exposure to the debris at ground zero, there is no evidence to suggest that this exposure ultimately led to premature death. For the most part, they seem to have lived happy, healthy lives in the aftermath. Let’s not heap misery upon misery.

    • Amirh says:

      Thanks for visiting the blog and posting your comment. I don’t think that I suggest that any of the dogs that you refer to died from the effects of their work of 9-11. The post was meant as a tribute to animal first responders.

  14. Pingback: TIL During the aftermath of 9/11, Search and Rescue dogs found so few living people, that it caused them great stress because they believed they had failed. Handlers and Rescue workers had to regularly hide in the rubble in order to give the rescue dogs a

  15. Pingback: TIL During the aftermath of 9/11, Search and Rescue dogs found so few living people, that it caused them great stress because they believed they had failed. Handlers and Rescue workers had to regularly hide in the rubble in order to give the rescue dogs a

  16. Pingback: TIL During the aftermath of 9/11, Search and Rescue dogs found so few living people, that it caused them great stress because they believed they had failed. Handlers and Rescue workers had to regularly hide in the rubble in order to give the rescue dogs a

  17. Phil says:

    Reblogged this on Philosophum and commented:
    I just came across these amazing and heartfelt stories of our veteran K9 heroes. A worthy read.

  18. Thomas Ernst says:

    These are amazing stories of animal loyalty and unconditional love. Although some stories brought tears, they really showed that these animals are true heroes. Thank you for the stories.

  19. Pingback: Awesome Facts of the Day, Nov 21, 2013 | Gags Area

  20. Pingback: El mayor sentimiento de culpabilidad que he visto en un perro

    • Amirh says:

      Tiene usted razón sobre el estrés y sensación de fracaso que los perros de rescate experiencia cuando no encuentran una persona viva. Que son tan animales! Gracias por visitar y comentar. Vuelva pronto.

  21. Sharon Majek says:

    I read this tribute with tears in my eyes. I watched in horror the TV as the tragedy unfolded in America. Being in the UK it was in the afternoon for us, and I always used to watch the news in the afternoon. The horror I saw when I put my TV on made me go cold. My heart went out to those on the planes, those in the twin towers, the Pentagon and all the other buildings that were affected by this act of terrorism. It is something that will always be with me, as I am sure it will be with all those affected by the tragedy. Visiting New York is on my ‘bucket list’ and the place I want to visit most is the memorial to those who died that day. As someone who has two rescue dogs, a black Lab called Jess and a Jack Russell called Heidi, I know how much they mean to me, they are my family, and I can only imagine the pride (and fear!) all those owners felt when their dogs went in to help that day! Thank you so much for writing this blog, it has brought to the attention of many who love our four legged friends just how special they are, and what heroes they are too!

  22. Pingback: 5 Heroic Dogs Of 9/11 - Furlocity Blog

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