It’s been two years since Bretagne passed and almost 18 years since her heroic acts but her memories will live on forever. Bretagne was the last surviving search-and-rescue dog that braved the tragic and catastrophic World Trade Center site after the terrorist attacks. She spent 10 days looking for survivors and consoling rescuers at the site.
Bretagne was a 2-year-old Golden Retriever when she arrived at New York coming from Texas. It was her first assignment as a rescue dog and she spent 12-hour work shifts at the site. Bretagne searched for survivors and consoled emergency responders during the entire time, even sleeping outdoors with her owner and handler, Denise Corliss. Despite her tedious search, Bretagne was not able to find any survivors, only remains.
It was hard for trained dogs to not have found anyone alive. They saw this as not a job well done. The rate of dearth of survivors was so immense that it reached a point that rescue dogs got depressed. To solve the confusion and depression that the rescue dogs experienced, rescuers had to pretend to be stuck in the rubble and let the dogs find them so that the dogs may feel motivated and know that they are doing their jobs well. Through the days, Bretagne’s search task was transformed from rescue to recovery. She searched for survivors and consoled everyone in the site.
After 9/11, Bretagne continued to serve as a rescue dog. She dedicated a total of nine years in service. Upon retirement, she spent her days demonstrating rescue techniques during community events and helping shy kids practice reading.
During her last days, she would spend time with kids that have a hard time reading. She attentively listened to first graders who practiced reading out loud. She served the community until the last of her days.
What humans ever did to deserve dogs, we will never know. A hearty and robust salute to all the rescue dogs! Long will live your heroism and memories, Bretagne!