Our Canine Heroes
by Jeanne Griffin

Search and Rescue Dogs

After the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked on September 11, 2001, Canine Search and Rescue teams from all over the world went to the disaster sites to help find survivors and victims.

These highly trained Search and Rescue teams worked 12-hour shifts around the clock. Their work was very hazardous. The air was thick with dust, smoke, and debris. Nearby buildings, damaged by the explosions, were collapsing.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency dispatched VMAT teams (Veterinary Medical Assistance Team) to help care for the Search and Rescue dogs. The VMAT teams treated the dogs for cut paws, exhaustion, and respiratory difficulties.

Guide Dogs

Two of the workers in the WTC at the time of the attack were blind. Their guide dogs led both of them out of the building safely.

Omar Eduardo Rivera was working on the 71st floor when the hijacked airliner struck the building 25 floors above him. His dog, Dorado, a Labrador Retriever, was lying under his desk. Mr. Rivera unleashed his dog so that the dog might escape. He said, "I hoped he would be able to quickly run down the stairs without me and get to safety." But Dorado did not run away. At one point, Dorado was swept away by the rush of people fleeing down the stairs. After several minutes, Mr. Rivera felt the familiar nudge of Dorado. Dorado had returned to his side and guided him to safety.

Mike Hingson was working on the 78th floor of the WTC. His guide dog Roselle, also a Labrador Retriever, led him down the stairs and outside before the building collapsed. Hingson said, "Roselle did a good job. She stayed focused. We stayed to the side. We smelled a lot of jet fuel on the way down...Some people had a lot of problems breathing. She never hesitated. She never panicked."

A Canine Victim of the WTC Attack

Among the dead and missing at the World Trade Center was Sirius, a Yellow Lab explosive detection dog. Sirius worked with Officer Dave Lim, and their office was in the basement of the WTC. Officer Lim and Sirius were in their office when the first explosion occurred. Officer Lim thought a bomb had exploded and said to Sirius, "One (bomb) must have gotten by us." He put Sirius in his crate and hurried up the stairs to investigate. As he was helping people evacuate, the building collapsed. After Dave was rescued from the rubble, he made several unsuccessful attempts to find a way to the basement where Sirius was left in his crate. 

In January, 2002, Sirius' remains were found at the WTC site.  In April of that year, a memorial service for Sirius was held at Liberty State Park in Jersey City. More than 300 people and dozens of service dogs from around the country attended the service.



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