Remembering 9/11 Dog Heroes
This year marks my 20th year anniversary working with amazing search and rescue dogs. I've had my ups and downs over the years, but the one thing that keeps me going is the dogs. The dogs live for their jobs and have such extreme pleasure and joy in working. They stand by our sides and never say no, I don't feel like it today. They always want to go find people without fail even in all kinds of awful weather and circumstances. Whenever I have had an injury or illness that has prevented training for a while, the dogs all noticeably miss their job and act a bit mopey.
The only thing the dogs ask for is a game of tug or retrieve at the end. For that they will search all day though snow, cold, rain, etc. These dogs don't know they are heroes or doing anything special, but they are. While all dogs are extremely special, it does take a unique combination of traits and training to make a good search dog. The search dogs are our partners and our friends and they save lives or bring back the missing to their loved ones.
As many do, I remember 9/11 and mark the anniversary each year. I also remember a different side of it then many. I assisted recovery efforts out of Staten Island. They brought the rubble over on barges. Again, the dogs didn't say no. The dogs were used to searching for one person in a wilderness setting, but they adapted. Their humans were stressed and wearing funny suits. The dogs were asked to search a football size field full of spread out rubble, something they had never done before. Yet still the dogs didn't hesitate. They did their job without fail to help bring back the missing.
We spent a relatively short time down there. Yet those days influenced my whole life. I along with the others working, saw sights no one should see. Dogs had to be happily rewarded for doing their job, even when the handler was devastated by what the dog had found. There was wreckage everywhere and huge piles of rubble. One of the things that effected me a lot personally, was a soda
truck. Amidst the wreckage all around, the back of the truck still had untouched cans. Even now all these years later it is hard for me to comprehend why anyone would feel so much hate they would do something like that or how there could be so much destruction but something so little as a soda can could be untouched. 9/11 recovery efforts were by far the toughest search I have been on in my 20 years in search and rescue. Part of that is that is because it wasn't caused by nature or an accident. It was a senseless hateful act done on purpose. When we went back to our base at night feeling low after the tough day, the dogs again stepped up. Despite working long shifts the dogs took on a second role as therapy dogs after working all day as search dogs. They comforted the workers as only dogs know how. It took quite a while to get back to normal life after the experience. I ended up changing my college major and my long term career choice and committed myself to getting further into volunteer search and rescue. My experiences are also part of the reason I started K-9 Magic LLC. Every year on the anniversary, I take time out to remember those who died and remind myself of the experiences of working recovery efforts. I look at pictures and remember the tireless and heroic efforts of the search dogs who searched all day and then helped us hold onto our sanity in the evenings. I also thank my current search dogs and hope upon hope we can continue helping people without ever having another terrorist incident such as 9/11 to respond to again. Everyone has different ways of remembrance. How do you ensure you Never Forget 9/11?