April 15, 2024

Bowlingual Dog

Animal Planet Directory

6 Incredible Stories – Dogster

In the aftermath of 9/11, hundreds of rescuers descended on the rubble to find survivors. Many of these rescuers were canines. Some of them were trained to find people trapped underneath rubble. However, many of them were not. The extreme circumstances of the attack led to dogs trained in all sorts of smelling activities to be utilized in the rescue.

Here are some tales of the heroic dogs. While we might not know about all the canines that helped in the aftermath of 9/11, we can remember those that we do:

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The 6 Stories of 9/11 Dogs

1. Trakr

german shepherd dog lying on wooden table outdoors
Image Credit: lancegfx, Pixabay

This German Shepherd was originally from Halifax, Canada, and is best known for finding several survivors under the rubble after the 9/11 attack. He heroically searched for survivors for 2 days, finding the last survivors after 27 hours.

His search took a major toll on his body. Despite veterinarians being stationed at ground zero to help care for the dogs working there, Trakr collapsed from exhaustion and smoke inhalation after his second day of searching. He also suffered from burned paws. Luckily, he was able to retire after being treated for his injuries.

Trakr’s DNA was later cloned and utilized in breeding programs.1


2. Riley

golden retriever dog standing on grass
Image Credit: Mohammad_Hamza7393, Shutterstock

Riley, a Golden Retriever, was another canine who searched ground zero after the building collapsed. He was originally trained to find living people but functioned as a cadaver dog after the disaster.

Sadly, after finding a body, he became depressed and retired from the rescue. He was reassigned as a comfort dog to help firefighters and rescue workers after the disaster.

He died several years later from cancer, which may have been caused by his rescue work at ground zero. He inspired new research into the effects of rescue work on dogs and how to minimize the health impacts.


3. Apollo

german shepherd dog lying on the grass
Image Credit: summerstock, Pixabay

Apollo was the first canine to set foot at ground zero after the collapse. He was trained in New York as a search and rescue dog for urban disasters, making him perfect for the 9/11 rescue operation. He was one of the top rescue dogs during the 1990s.

He worked tirelessly to find survivors, working 18-hour days on top of the rubble. He was forced to stop due to exhaustion after several days of work. He was honored with several awards and at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show several years later.


4. Bretagne

golden-retriever-wagging-its-tail
Image Credit: Hollysdogs, Shutterstock

One of the last surviving dogs to work at ground zero was Bretagne, a Golden Retriever. She was a member of FEMA and trained as a rescue dog. She was one of the few who could navigate the more challenging areas in the rubble without a leash. She worked for 12 hours a day for over 2 weeks to find survivors in the Pentagon rubble.

9/11 was her first mission, making her one of the youngest dogs to work the rescue mission. She continued to work after the mission, too, helping to locate survivors during many hurricanes and other natural disasters. She finally retired in 2011.

During her career, she was one of the top 50 search and rescue dogs, one of the highest honors she could receive. She also worked as a cadaver dog in the Middle East, receiving several rewards for her service.


5. Jake

black labrador dog
Image Credit: JeannieR, Shutterstock

Jake is another heroic canine who helped find survivors in the rubble after 9/11. He was originally a stray who was rescued by his owner, a dog handler in Utah. After 9/11, he was one of the many dogs who traveled to help with the rescue efforts.

He spent 11 days looking for survivors and cadavers during the rescue efforts. Sadly, he didn’t find any living survivors in the rubble. However, he is still celebrated for finding the bodies of many firefighters and other victims.


6. Thunder

golden retriever lying on green grass field during daytime
Image Credit: Ben Pitasky, Unsplash

Thunder and his handler traveled from Washington right after the 9/11 attack to help search for victims in the rubble. Originally, Thunder was trained largely to find people in avalanches and drownings. However, his skills were also useful in New York’s urban setting.

This mission was Thunder’s first, and it was a massive operation. Plus, it was also the first time Thunder had been called to serve so far away from home. Like many heroic dogs, Thunder did not find many survivors. However, his dedication and long working hours didn’t go unnoticed.

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Final Thoughts

These weren’t the only dogs that were present at the 9/11 tower rubble—or at one of the other disaster sites on 9/11. In fact, there were over 300 search and rescue dogs on site. Most of them were not trained for urban rescue. Instead, their training often involved wilderness search and rescue, including avalanches.

However, despite being in a completely different environment than what they were trained for, these dogs persisted through very long hours, weeks of work, overcrowding, and noisy conditions. It was not a very fun place for a dog to be. Many dogs did not find survivors. For some dogs, morale was so low that their handlers had to stage fake rescues to lift their spirits. These dogs were not trained to handle hours of work without one success.

Despite all of these conditions, the 9/11 hero dogs were a sign of hope in the bleak days after the attack. They worked tirelessly to rescue those who could and bring closure to the families of those they couldn’t.


Featured Image Credit: hxdbzxy, Shutterstock


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