Raising Your Paws - Your Pet Parent Resource

Do You Know about the Dogs that Helped on 9-11? (Blog #75)

Published: 09/03/2020
Golden Retriever, Louie at Ground Zero: World Trade Center

As I’m writing this blog, on Sept. 8, 2020, it is startling to me to think that the events of Sept. 11, 2001 were 19 years ago. In recalling and paying respect to all those that lost their lives and the people and canines, that worked to save and recover others, on this week’s podcast, you can hear a replay of a show I did on September 11, in 2018.  It’s stories of an individual’s experience, surviving that day and the dog teams that worked so hard at Ground Zero of the World Trade Center.  Below, listen to Dan Hughes, who was a former secret service agent for the United States tell what happened to him as he was reporting to work at the World Trade Center on the morning of September, 11, 2001. His survival and what he experienced during that event, led him to become a dog handler. Even if you listened to the show two years ago, it is worth hearing this story again.

Many people are not aware that there were numerous search and rescue dog teams that deployed to New York to help in the rescue and recovery efforts at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the Fresh Kills Landfill. In the second segment of the podcast, you’ll hear the stories of three of the dogs that worked at Ground Zero.

Below, are photos of the dogs I talked about in the podcast, Bretagne, Riley and Storm, as well as other photos from the book, “Dog Heroes of September 11th” by Nona Kilgore Bauer.  

Photo Credit: Dog Heroes of September, 11th. A Tribute to Americas Search and Rescue Dogs. Author, Nona Kilgore Bauer.

An estimated 250-300 K-9 teams, contributed their searching efforts during and after the 9-11 disaster. In the photo above, teams are on their way to Ground Zero at the World Trade Center.

Below, is a photo of Bretagne and her handler, Denise Corliss. Bretagne had remarkable skills in knowing which firefighters needed her comforting presence or to cry into her fur.

Photo credit: Dog Heroes of September 11th.

Photo by Journalist 1st Class Preston Keres. Photo credit: Dog Heroes of September 11th.

Above, is the famous photo of Riley, being transported in a stokes basket over a 60 foot canyon of debris, in order for him and his handler, Chris Selfridge, to search what was left of the north tower of the World Trade Center. This was the most practical and safe way to get Riley across the huge void.

Then below is Storm, the German Shephard that was never mistaken when indicating that he had found someone.

David Sanabria and Storm.
Photo credit: Dog Heroes of September 11th by Nona Kilgore Bauer.


At 9:38  in the morning of September 11, a third hijacked airliner struck the Pentagon in Washington, DC, killing 184 people.

In addition to the dogs teams that worked at ground zero, many k-9 teams worked the site at the Pentagon. The dogs found the DNA evidence that identified all of the 184 victims as well as the 5 hijackers.


In the photo below, you’ll notice you can barely see where Otto, a certified cadaver search dog, is, in the midst of the massive debris pile at the Pentagon.  Dogs were able to move sure-footedly though areas that were nearly impossible for people to navigate.  Sonja Heritage, his handler,  said that Otto, knew the job he was there to perform and worked well off lead with very little input from her. Otto helped bring closure to many of the victim’s families.

Photo credit: Dog Heroes of September 11th.

The source of the stories and photos is from the book, “Dog Heroes of September, 11th” by Nona Kilgore Bauer. 

 The dog on the cover of the book is the golden retriever, Riley, who crossed the canyon in the basket.

To order, Dog Heroes of September, 11th.