They were among the great heroes of 9/11 – the dogs and their people who searched the wreckage, risking their own lives to save the lives of others. Many of them, human and canine became sick in the months and years that followed, from breathing in toxic dust and fumes that poisoned the air at Ground Zero. Today, most of the dogs have passed on. But they will not be forgotten.
The dog in this iconic photo from the relief effort at Ground Zero was Riley, a golden retriever who came to the wreckage with his person, Chris Selfridge from Pennsylvania. We spoke with him about working with Riley in the wreckage of the World Trade Center:
In the hours and days following the attack on the Twin Towers, almost 100 trained dogs from 18 states, were deployed in the search-and-rescue efforts at Ground Zero. Photographer Charlotte Dumas went in search of the dogs who are still with us.
Within minutes of the first strike, the Internet was buzzing with e-mail reports, requests for help, and responses. It was still the early days of e-mail. There was no Facebook, no Twitter. Some of the old online services like AOL were still central gathering places for people. But e-mail was coming into its heyday.
Get together now and build an emergency coalition. In the New York disaster, the city’s Animal Care & Control took on most of the animal rescue and relocation side of things, the Suffolk SPCA took care of the search-and-rescue dogs, and the ASPCA handled emergency veterinary care. Decide who’s going to be doing what in your community.
Most people are not prepared to deal with emergencies that affect their animals. Here are a few quick pointers:
“The lieutenant asked Cody and me to climb down into a pit 10 feet deep and search for any signs of life. I called into the back of the hose truck several times, but there was no response. Then Cody, my golden retriever, began scratching the earth and whimpering. I told the firefighters above me: ‘We have a body down here!’”
Kathleen Ross, had been in her lower Manhattan apartment, just blocks from the World Trade Center, when the terrorists struck. She knew she had to get out, but her 4-year-old cat, Tweety-Pye, was too terrified to cooperate. As the second tower collapsed, the beautiful gray kitty ran and hid.
“The dogs would come out of the site covered in ash and debris,” Gross recalled. “We hydrated them with IV fluids, rinsed the dust out of their eyes, bathed them, gave them antibiotics, cleaned and stitched wounds, and fitted them with booties.”
On the 70th floor, as soon as he heard the crash and the ensuing chaos, Omar Eduardo Rivera, who was blind, ordered his guide dog, Dorado, to go down the stairs to safety without him. Rivera was certain he could never make it to safety himself.
When Marcello Forte took a call from New York City animal control, there were already 30,000 tons of food and supplies piling up at the waterfront. The Center for Animal Care and Control (CACC) urgently needed help at Pier 40, which had been set up as an emergency distribution point.