In the aftermath of 9/11, hundreds of service dogs aided in search and recovery efforts at Ground Zero. Today, just one remains. Bretagne, a golden retriever, recently celebrated her 16th birthday with a trip to New York where she dined on gourmet cheeseburger, explored the city in a vintage taxi, and took the time to pay her respects at Ground Zero.
Bretagne and her owner, Denise Corliss, came from Texas in the wake of the disaster. It was the first deployment for both Corliss and the then-two year old dog. As a search dog, Bretagne was responsible for searching through areas of rubble. If no one was found, the rubble would be removed. According to Corliss Bretagne regularly spent 12 hours per day searching alongside other rescuers and their canines.
After 9/11, Bretagne and Corliss worked together during Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Ivan. She retired as a search dog in 2009 and now serves as a therapy dog at elementary schools in Texas.
In an interview with the New York Daily News, Corliss said that Bretagne also helped in another way. At one point, Bretagne spotted an exhausted and expressionless firefighter and ran to his side, ignoring Corliss’s calls to return. “It was like she was flipping me the paw,” she said. “She went right to that firefighter and laid down next to him and her head on his lap.”