9/11 Search Dogs — Remembering Their Service

In the days after 9/11, in a world of darkness, hundreds of search and rescue dogs offered a bit of hope. Let’s hear it for the canine heroes!

9/11 search dogs

On this, the 11th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, Pets Adviser would like to take a few moments to reflect on the canine heroes. Let’s not forget the valuable sacrifice (and healing) provided by the 9/11 search dogs!

Here are a few selected stories:

  • A black Lab named Jake sniffed through smoldering debris at Ground Zero — and later served during Hurricane Katrina. He went on to provide therapy for children who had been burned. Mary Flood, of Utah Task Force 1, adopted Jake at 10 months old after the dog had been abandoned and left with a broken leg and displaced hip bone. “Against all odds he became a world-class rescue dog,” Flood says.
  • A black Lab named Red searched the Pentagon rubble for weeks. She was not quite 2 years old then; she worked with other canines and their handlers in 12-hour shifts, searching for signs of survivors and bodies of victims. Now the search and rescue dog is 12 and retired.
  • A yellow Lab named Roselle (now nicknamed “Thunder Dog”) was a guide dog for a blind man, whom she led down the chaotic stairwells of Tower 1 of the World Trade Center for two hours until they reached safety.
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) allowed dozens of personally owned search dogs at the World Trade Center site. Only a handful remain alive today. All told, about 300 dogs aided in the 9/11 rescue efforts, the largest deployment of dogs in US history. (A group called Finding One Another says the number is actually closer to 1,000 working dog teams from all over the country.)
  • Retired NYPD officer Steve Smaldon spent about 150 days at Ground Zero with Hansen, a Belgian malinois. The dog was named after a cop who had been killed in the line of fire. Now the dog’s likeness graces a 9/11 memorial statue in Lindenhurst, on New York’s Long Island.

Comfort, Healing

Not only did the 9/11 search dogs play a huge role in recovering remains, but they also provided a sense of comfort and healing to overworked human rescue workers and distraught family members. At the time, in a world of heartwrenching darkness, these dogs offered a bit of shining hope. We should never forget that.

Tony Zintsmaster, who searched the rubble at Ground Zero with his dog Kaiser, reflects succinctly on working with canines: “Your partner is your partner. He spends his whole life with you. We train them from puppies. We teach them to be our partners. Then one day they die in your arms.”

Photo: FEMA; more info: National Disaster Search Dog Foundation

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