This is the first commemoration of 9/11 that will be without some of its best and bravest: the dogs that pawed and sniffed through the smoking ruins of the World Trade Center, looking for survivors.
Bretagne (pronounced Brittany), a 16-year-old golden retriever, was believed to be the last of the nearly 100 trained search-and-rescue canines dispatched to Ground Zero. Her handler, Denise Corliss, said good-bye to Bretagne in June. When Bretagne stopped eating for several days, Corliss knew it was time.
The Benefits of Being an Active Senior Dog
Sixteen is an advanced age for any dog, and especially for large breeds like golden retrievers. That makes it all the more remarkable that a dog put in harm’s way so often was able to enjoy an excellent quality of life far into her senior years. Apparently, the benefits of staying active and engaged extend to dogs as much as they do to humans.
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Bretagne's Search-And-Rescue Record Is Impressive
Bretagne served in other disasters zones, including those of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. In 2009, she began working closer to home, focusing on search and rescue for the local Cy Fair Volunteer Fire Department in Harris County, Texas.
Even after she retired from her more dangerous assignments, Bretagne kept busy. Once a week, she took part in a “read to a dog” program at a local elementary school. The premise: Children who are intimidated by reading aloud to their classmates or to adults feel more comfortable sounding out words in the presence of the nonjudgmental pup.
Of course, providing comfort had always part of Bretagne’s job—something the dog knew instinctively, even before her handler was aware. Corliss soon discovered that firefighters and rescuers at Ground Zero would gravitate towards the golden retriever, talking to her about their missing loved ones with emotion they found difficult to express to other humans.
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She's Been Well-Recognized for Her Service
Bretagne’s service to others did not go unrecognized. She was brought to New York for her 16th birthday in 2015. She and Corliss were greeted by a billboard in Times Square thanking them for their role in 9/11. Bretagne was probably more excited by the cheeseburger that greeted her at 1 Hotel Central Park.
As was befitting, Bretagne was given a hero’s send off. Members of the Cy-Fair Fire Department lined the path up to the Fairfield Animal Hospital, where Corliss walked her to be put to sleep.
Rest in peace, Bretagne. You served well and long, and were well loved by many in return.
Watch on Z Living: Finding Fido (premiering January 17). Finding Fido is all about matching the right person with the right dog. Underwater dog photographer (yes you heard that right) and behaviorist Seth Casteel hosts the show, playing matchmaker each week to a person and a pooch.
images via barkpost