On the 13th anniversary of the tragic 9/11 attacks, the Today show brought in Bretagne, a 15-year-old golden retriever that is believed to be the last remaining 9/11 search dog of approximately 300. Her owner and handler, Denise Corliss came all the way from Cypress, Texas to relieve the first wave of responders and proceeded to work with Bretagne for nearly two weeks of twelve hour shifts in hope of finding any survivors. From Today:
In the late ‘90s, Corliss, an electrical engineer, became fascinated by the work of disaster search dogs. She learned that civilians — volunteers who receive no pay at all and work and travel at their own expense — can undergo rigorous training with their dogs. If they make the cut, a dog/handler team can support federal emergency response efforts at disaster sites around the United States.
In the fall of 1999, Corliss brought home Bretagne, a wriggly 8-week-old puppy who had much to learn and wanted to learn it. “I was so excited about doing this, but I didn’t have the appreciation of how life-changing it would be,” Corliss recalled. “It took 20 to 30 hours a week easily to stay on top of training. This is what I did when I wasn’t at work.”
Following her work at Ground Zero, Bretagne went on to work at other disaster sites such as Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Ivan before retiring at age nine. Even today at fifteen, she still volunteers at a local elementary school where she helps teach children with special needs to read.
If you’ve got a dry eye remaining, you can vote for Bretagne in the American Humane Association’s annual Hero Dog Awards, which she’s up for amongst seven other nominees.