Meet the Last Remaining Search Dog From 9/11

by John Boone 11:20 AM PDT, September 11, 2014
Photo: Today

Meet Bretagne (pronounced “Brittany”), a 15-year-old golden retriever who’s spent her life helping humans. And she’s finally getting honored for it: nominated for the American Human Association’s “Top Hero Dog” award.

Today, she is in the news because she is “believed to be the last surviving search dog who worked at the World Trade Center” on September 11. Bretagne and her owner, Denise Corliss of Cypress, Texas, appeared on TODAY and, 13 years later, revisited Ground Zero.

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In 1999, Denis adopted Bretagne, and the two set about training 20 to 30 hours a week. A year later, they were accepted into the Texas Task Force 1, a group that “scours a disaster site and finds survivors buried in the rubble.”

Their first deployment was to Ground Zero.

“I really believed we could find somebody—anybody!—if we could just get to the right void space,” Denise recalls. “But our reality was much different. We found all various kinds of remains, some recognizable, others not so much.”

For two weeks, 12 hours each day, 2-year-old Bretagne searched through the rubble. And when she wasn’t searching, she was helping lift the spirit of firefighters and other workers.

“Those dogs brought the power of hope. They removed the gloom for just an instant—and that was huge because it was a pretty dismal place to be,” veterinarian Dr. Cindy Otto, who specializes in 9/11 search dogs, told TODAY.

Since then, Bretagne has worked on to hurricane disaster sites, including Katrina, and now retired from searching, she works at an elementary school helping special needs children.

If that’s not a Top Hero Dog, we don’t know what is.

Meanwhile, we salute Adam Driver, Drew Carey, and more celebrity veterans.