With an American flag draped over her, 16-year-old Bretagne was guided by owner Denise Corliss past saluting firefighters at the Cy-Fair Fire Department in Harris County, Texas, who lined the sidewalk up to the Fairfield Animal Hospital. Bretagne walked into the veterinarian’s office for the last time June 6, 2016, where she was put to sleep.
A national hero and a lifesaver to many, Bretagne spent her final moments being honored by the rescue workers she called family since 9/11.
Bretagne was the last surviving 9/11 Ground Zero search dog, and helped with disaster response efforts to hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Ivan, among others. in 2001, the 2-year-old golden retriever worked with handler Corliss and search and rescue teams at the World Trade Center 12 hours a day for two weeks straight.
“We were there to try to find survivors,” Corliss told BarkPost. “And when our task force arrived in Ground Zero, I just couldn’t believe the magnitude of it. Then I looked down to her, and she seemed stoic and ready to work.”
After retiring from rescue work at age 9, Bretagne still found ways to stay active, but by 13 started slowing down. Suffering from stiffness and joint pain, Bretagne stopped climbing the stairs at home. Corliss eventually had a pool installed to help Bretagne stay active by swimming 10 minutes a day. In her later years, Bretagne served as a reading assistance dog at an elementary school near the Corliss’ home. And when Bretagne felt it was time to go, she let Corliss know.
“She was really anxious last night and she just wanted to be with me,” Corliss told TODAY. “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.”
Bretagne was suffering from kidney failure but spent her final moments among those that loved her dearly.
“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.”
The search and rescue dogs of 9/11 didn’t ask for rewards. They searched the rubble of Ground Zero tirelessly for weeks, saving hundreds of lives. But 10 years after the World Trade Center attack, the search and rescue dog community came together to honor these fearless canines with a ceremony at Liberty Park in New York City. Follow this link to see a video of the ceremony.
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