Little Known Heroes: The 9/11 Therapy Dogs

In the days following Sept. 11, 2001, you probably know that search dog teams played vital recovery roles in the effort to locate survivors, working 12-hour shifts under the most horrific conditions. And then, once it was clear there were no more survivors, cadaver dog teams made valiant efforts to recover human remains, giving families and friends some sense of closure.

Little Known Heroes: The 9/11 Therapy Dogs

Annie, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, comforted families of the victims, volunteering with owner Elizabeth Teal from Sept. 18, 2001, until January 2002. 


But what you may not know about is the role of an estimated 500 therapy dogs and their handlers who labored for weeks or in some cases months after the heinous attack to comfort surviving families and friends, and the firefighters, police officers and relief workers who sometimes suffered deep emotional trauma.

In an interview I did earlier this year with Victoria Stilwell, the world-renowned trainer recounted her experience as an ASPCA volunteer at Pier 94, one location where families were brought in the days after the attack.

“Seeing the dogs comfort the victims’ families just cemented for me how incredible these animals are. These families would come in and get on the boat and go down the Hudson River (to near the World Trade Center site) and throw wreaths and flowers into the water to remember their loved ones.

“The people came in and at first weren’t really talking to each other. But when the dogs came on the boat they started to smile and they started to have conversations with each other. Or they had conversations with the dogs. It was such a change of feeling when those dogs came on the boat. These dogs do so much for us. This was a life-changing experience.”

The therapy dog teams came from animal-assisted therapy (AAT) and animal-assisted activity (AAA) organizations. Approximately 150 dog teams came from Therapy Dogs International, one of three national therapy dog registries.

The stories of these dogs and their handlers are now being told in the re-release of Dog Heroes of September 11th (Kennel Club Books, $29.95) (Kennel Club Books is owned by BowTie Inc., which also publishes DOG FANCY magazine and

There is Winnie, a cute little Miniature Pinscher who comforted grieving families as they boarded ferries that brought them to Ground Zero.

Tuka, a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, was there to give vital therapy when two Emergency Medical Techs were overwhelmed by what they had witnessed.

When a woman burst into tears and collapsed onto Patrick, unable to contain her grief, the Golden Retriever consoled her with unconditional love in a way only a therapy dog can.

If you enjoy inspiring stories, this 10th anniversary edition will bring both tears and smiles, lift your spirits about your fellow man, and most of all deepen your love for dogs.

This re-release of the award-winning first edition commemorates the moving experiences of the 80 rescue and recovery K9 teams in 2001, with a heartfelt foreword from Rudolph Giuliani, who gained international acclaim for his leadership during and after that tragic day.

With 100 new pages and 150 fresh photos, the story is told with new dimension and insights.

Most important, the new release tells the story of what has happened since. Dogs have become even more vital in protecting our nation and ourselves, safeguarding our soldiers at war, and rescuing disaster victims at home and abroad.

As with the first edition, a portion of the proceeds will help further the work of the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, which endorses the book and is building the nation’s first national training center for search-and-rescue dogs. To learn more, or order a copy, visit

– Read more of Editor Off Leash –

More Amazing Hero Dogs


Article Categories:
Dogs · Lifestyle