Remember our heroes

Every year on this day, we take a moment to remember the impact of events that took and changed the lives of so many.

In the days and weeks following that horrific event, there were images of firemen and rescue workers amongst the heaped destruction in lower Manhattan.  And then there were images of the search and rescue dogs working tirelessly alongside them.

We dogs don’t lead long lives, so seventeen years on, none of those 300 search and rescue dogs are alive to tell their stories – so we continue to remember them and to thank them.

Charlotte Dumas’ book RETRIEVED, a portrayal of some of the surviving dogs, was published a decade after the course of events.

Among them was Bretagne, at 16-years, this golden retriever was the last surviving rescue dog.  But she too had since left us. She was put down on 7 June, 2016 at Fairfield Animal Hospital in Cypress, Texas, with her handler Denise Corliss by her side.They are now all gone from us but reunited once again at the Rainbow Bridge – a league of their own, our heroes.  For it is books like Charlotte’s that will continue to remind the hoomans that these canines played an important role in the aftermath of an event that possibly marked the turning point of the world that we live in today.

May’s comment: A friend gave me this beautiful book by Charlotte Dumas – her portrayal of 15 dogs who were there when the world witnessed this vast destruction of not just two iconic buildings and the thousands of lives – but also changed our world.This is Moxie on the cover.

On and after September 11, 2001, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) deployed close to a hundred search dogs along with their handlers – form a network of 26 active task forces from 18 different states – to both the World Trade Centre in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington D.C.  In the aftermath of the attacks the dogs searched day and night for survivors, making sure no one would be stranded in the rubble, while rescue workers and firemen slowly made their way through the chaos and debris.

In my memory, the photographs of these dogs that appeared in the newspapers stayed with me most strongly: a dog being transported in a stokes basket on cables suspended high over the wreckage; another dog intently searching while manoeuvring over enormous bent beams; dogs receiving eye drops after and in between shifts. I can still recall these images clearly. The dogs searched and comforted. They somehow emanated a spark of hope amidst this scene of destruction.

I long wondered what had become of these animals.  How many of the would still be alive today, so many years after 9/11? Through FEMA, I was able to locate 15 of the surviving dogs that took part in the rescue operations. I visited and portrayed them in their homes, where they all still live with their handlers across the U.S.

These animals were all at the same place at the same time, one decade ago, for the same reason: to work.  That experience unites them, and was the incentive for me to pursue this subject and to photograph the dogs.  They now share the vulnerability of old age while symbolising a full decade now coming to a close.”

– Charlotte Dumas, August 2011

5 Comments

  1. Christina

    Thank you for this lovely tribute.

  2. Valerie Patten Kirkham

    Darcy, May and little George. What a lovely tribute. I, too, will be looking into buying the book. Thanks again. Valerie, Bella and little Maggie

  3. Cecilia

    A touching tribute, brought tears to my eyes!

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