The last known search-and-rescue dog to serve at the World Trade Center site in the days following the 9/11 terrorist attack has died.
Bretagne, a 16-year-old golden retriever, was euthanized on June 6, 2016, after experiencing kidney failure and other health problems, according to The New York Times.
Bretagne (pronounced Brit-nee) joined the Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department in Houston, Texas, in 2000 and was the founding canine member of the department’s K9 Search and Rescue Team. Certified as a FEMA Disaster Search Dog, Bretagne was just 2 years old when she and her owner and partner Captain Denise Corliss traveled as members of Texas Task Force 1 to Ground Zero. One of around 300 dogs called to duty after 9/11, Bretagne worked 12-hour days for 10 days but found only remains, The New York Times reported. Like many others, Bretagne took on a secondary role and served as a therapy dog to weary firefighters in need of comfort.
Despite harsh working conditions and exposure to toxic fumes and hazardous debris at Ground Zero, many of the search-and-rescue dogs, like Bretagne, lived long lives with little evidence of ill health caused by their service.
Following 9/11, Bretagne continued her work with Texas Task Force 1 and the Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department, adding Hurricanes Katrina and Rita to her impressive search-and-rescue record.
While Bretagne officially retired from search-and-rescue duties at the age of 10, the four-legged hero continued to be actively involved in the community as an ambassador for the local fire department and as a reading assistance dog in a local first grade classroom. Bretagne served students at Roberts Road Elementary school up until the last weeks of her life, offering them “a non-judgmental ear and a soft paw,” says a release from the Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department.
“Some may say that the most a dog could be is a pet,” the CFVFD release states. “However, to the over 400 members of the Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department, Bretagne was a civil servant, a hero and is family. We will remember her fondly and continue serving the community with her as inspiration.”
Click below to see more photos of Bretagne and Captain Denise Corliss. All photos courtesy of the Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department.