Bretagne, the last 9/11 Ground Zero search dog, has died at the age of 16.
According to Fox News, Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service announced Bretagne (pronounced like Brittany) was euthanized at Fairfield Animal Hospital in Cypress, Texas, on Monday. Over the past few weeks, Bretagne had started experiencing kidney failure and had stopped eating. Her owners knew the end was near.
“She was really anxious last night and she just wanted to be with me,” Bretagne’s handler, Denise Corliss, said on Monday. “So I laid down with her, right next to her. When she could feel me, she could settle down and go to sleep. I slept with her like that all night.”
When Bretagne was carried into the vet’s office by Corliss, more than two dozen representatives from Texas Task Force 1, the Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department, and other agencies lined the walkway to pay their respects. As she was carried out, an American flag was draped over her body. In a formal procession, Bretagne was transported from the veterinary clinic Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, to undergo an autopsy as part of an ongoing study of 9/11 search dogs.
— NYPD Special Ops (@NYPDSpecialops) June 7, 2016
“This was a very small way for us to pay tribute to a dog who truly has been a hero,” Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department Captain David Padovan told Today. “Just because she’s a K9 doesn’t make her any less part of our department than any other member.”
“She had lived longer and accomplished more than anybody,” Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department spokesman Capt. David Padovan said. “She was one of a kind. She was always eager to do searchers, even after she ‘retired.'”
When she was only 2-years-old, Bretagne and Denise were part of Texas Task Force 1 and were sent to the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan after the hijacked planes struck the Twin Towers on 9/11. The pair spent 10 days searching through the rubble in search for survivors.
— The Atlantic (@TheAtlantic) June 7, 2016
Along with her work as a 9/11 search dog, Bretagne and Denise were also dispatched as a search team during Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita, and Hurricane Ivan. Although Bretagne officially retired at the age of 9, she never lost her work ethic or will to help others. When she was 13, Denise realized Bretagne was getting stiff with age and decided to install a pool for her to exercise in.
“It makes a huge difference,” Corliss said. “She started doing the stairs again. Then we started focusing on ways to keep her mentally active… Helping kids with their reading in school (was) great for that.”
Until recently, Bretagne had been serving at a local elementary school as a reading assistance dog.
— NPR (@NPR) June 7, 2016
In September, in honor of her 16th birthday, Bretagne and Dorris returned to New York City for her Sweet 16 birthday bash. Bretagne enjoyed a fun-filled day of lounging on soft beds at a hotel in Central Park, eating gourmet burgers, riding around in a New York City taxi, and playing at a doggie splash park. She also received tons of new toys, wore a birthday hat, and chowed down on her very own dog-friendly cake.
“There are so many reasons Bretagne’s story is special, but this one really hit home for BarkPost since we are based in New York,” Laura Hartle, the creative producer for BarkPost Video, which coordinated the birthday bash, said in September. “To be able to have the chance to thank one of the dogs who helped our city when we needed it most was an unforgettable experience.”
Bretagne would have turned 17 on August 25.
[Photo by Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision for American Humane Association/AP Images]