The last 9/11 search dog, a golden retriever named Bretagne, has died. Honored for what she achieved as well as for the heroism that she symbolized, Bretagne was euthanized on June 6, reported Us Weekly.
At 16, the last surviving 9/11 search-and-rescue dog had a long history of bravery. Bretagne also served during Hurricane Rita as well as Hurricane Katrina. But although the golden retriever retired, she was ill, leading to the decision to take her to the Fairfield Animal Hospital in Houston.
During her heroic work at Ground Zero, the search dog served with 300 other dogs, focusing for 12 hours a day to perform her responsibilities. As she took her final steps into the animal hospital with her owner, Denise Corliss, Bretagne was honored by an honor guard of firefighters who saluted her.
Following her passing, the search dog was carried in a casket. Pallbearers representing a local search-and-rescue unit bore their heroic burden.
Corliss herself worked with Bretagne for two weeks in 2001 at the World Trade Center location. As her owner and handler, Denise described the last day and night she spent with her dog.
“She was really anxious last night and she just wanted to be with me. 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.”
Although Bretagne was 9 when she retired from search and rescue missions, the golden retriever continued to help others. She assisted in the training of future search-and-rescue dogs, paid visits to firehouses, and even listened to elementary school children reading to encourage the young scholars.
On her 16th birthday, Bretagne enjoyed a gourmet cheeseburger, an extra dose of pampering, and multiple treats and toys. Now, on her passing, those who knew the golden retriever as a hero are remembering her.
“Some may say that the most a dog could be is a pet. However, to the over 400 members of the Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department, Bretagne was a civil servant, a hero and is family,” praised the organization. “We will remember her fondly, and continue serving the community with her as inspiration.”
Among the others honoring the last 9/11 search dog were Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the New York Police Department’s Special Operations Division, noted the New York Times.
It is with heavy hearts we say goodbye to the last surviving 9/11 search dog, Bretagne. You will be missed. https://t.co/RxOoLuzgGW— FEMA (@fema) June 7, 2016
“The last living 9/11 rescue dog has passed away. Texas & America are forever grateful for Bretagne’s service,” tweeted Gov. Greg Abbott.
Recalling what happened after 9/11, Bretagne’s owner described how she felt. At the time of the terrorist attacks, the golden retriever was just 2-years-old. In addition to searching for survivors, the dog comforted those who responded. She and Corliss slept outdoors.
And although they had gone on their mission to try to rescue survivors, their work uncovered only remains.
“After 9/11, everybody — all of us — felt such sadness,” remembered Corliss during a 2014 interview. “We all wanted to help. I just felt so honored that we were able to respond.”
Until she retired, Bretagne worked with the Texas Task Force 1 and Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department. But it was the dog’s efforts after retirement that made her a celebrity in her community. From demonstrations of rescue techniques at local events to her presence at an elementary school, Bretagne received love everywhere she went, revealed David Padovan, a Fire Department spokesman.
“It’s just like meeting a movie star,” he admitted. “She walks into the room and everyone immediately gravitates to her. Everyone wants a picture with her. If she could sign autographs they’d ask for those as well.”
And because Bretagne helped children learn to read even as she became more frail, the dog provided service “until the very last moments,” added the Fire Department spokesman.
[Photo by David McNew/Getty Images]