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Ground Zero Retriever

Bretagne, a disaster search dog who worked at Ground Zero after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Everyone remembers where they were when the World Trade Center fell. It was a defining moment for our nation and one that changed the course of history. 2,996 people lost their lives in the attack including 343 firefighters and 72 law enforcement officers. It was a cultural turning point in the way American’s thought about foreign policy and national security. As with all moments of great danger and destruction, it was also a time for heroes.

Last week one of those heroes was laid to rest. Bretagne was only two years old when she arrived at Ground Zero. She searched tirelessly in 12 hour shifts for 2 weeks, looking for survivors and comforting them with her soft fur. Oh…did I forget to mention she’s a golden retriever? I’ve said before that dogs are man’s best friend and it seems like I’ll never run out of evidence to support this. A dog doesn’t understand international politics, cultural divisions, religious hatred, or the fundamental idea of what terrorism even is. All Bretagne knew was that people needed her and she wasn’t going to stop until everyone was safe.

Her efforts at Ground Zero alone are enough to earn her the title of hero, but she didn’t stop there. Throughout her career as a recuse dog she was deployed at Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita, and many other notable natural disasters. In 2009 when she was too old for intense rescue work she volunteered her time at local elementary schools and used her therapy skills to help kids overcome their fears and anxieties over reading and speaking up in class.

Last Monday Bretagne was euthanized at a veterinary clinic in the Houston suburb of Cypress. As she entered the facility she was met with the salutes of over 2 dozen first responders. When she left it was with an American Flag draped over her.

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Work in the field was not without its rewards.

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She passed peacefully at the old age of 16.

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Bretagne’s therapy skills were well honed in the field.

DePinho Lab

Her unit was officially called Texas Task Force One and was mobilized by FEMA during the 9/11 attacks.

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Passing the torch onto the next generation is something even dogs have to do.

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There’s always time for a good photo-op!

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Bretagne was a natural at her line of work.

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A hero’s ending for a hero’s life well lived.

Bretagne dedicated her life to helping humanity overcome disasters. She has more than earned the title of hero and the world is a poorer place for her loss.

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