A hero deserves a heroic farewell. Those who aided the rescue efforts after the fall of the Twin Towers on Sept. 11 were such heroes. So when one of their ranks passed away recently, she received such an honorable goodbye. Her status as brave team member surpassed the fact that she was a dog.
Bretagne (pronounced Brit-nee) died June 13 in Cypress, Texas, according to a press release by the Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX). At 16 years old, she was the last known surviving Sept. 11 search and rescue dog.
Photos show Cy-Fair Fire Department firefighters in Harris County, Texas, flanking a walkway for Bretagne as her remains, in a casket draped with an American flag, were brought out of her vet’s office. Inside the Fairfield Animal Hospital, her owner and handler, Denise Corliss, had accompanied her to the vet to be put to sleep, according to CNN.
Corliss and Bretagne worked on the site of the World Trade Center for 10 days in 2001. The newly certified FEMA Search and Rescue canine was only 2 years old when she and other members of Texas Task Force 1 (TX-TF1) searched Ground Zero for survivors and, ultimately, remains.
While assisting responders at the World Trade Center, Bretagne offered unexpected aid: she helped comfort the people working on the intense, overwhelming job.
“Dogs can be so comforting, so it makes sense to me now,” Corliss told CNN about the Golden Retriever’s ability to calm the teams she worked alongside. “I just didn’t anticipate that, then.”
Her career continued until age 9. She served on a dozen disasters, including Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ivan. When she retired, she served as an ambassador for her local fire department, a reading assistance dog at an elementary school near her home and a star of a non-fiction book about senior dogs. She met Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott and former President George H.W. Bush at his Presidential Library in College Station, Texas.
She celebrated her 16th birthday in style, in New York City. One of her last acts of assistance came through her work with Penn Vet Working Dog Center. There, her namesake, Bretagne 2, has been trained as a diabetic alert dog to help someone with severe Type 1 diabetes.
She served well and will be remembered.