We have some sad news to report, Green Monsters. Bretagne, the last surviving search-and-rescue dog to have worked at Ground Zero in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, passed away in the arms of her long-term handler and guardian Denise Corliss. It was a gentle end to a remarkable life, which saw Bretagne (pronounced “Brettany”) deployed to a number of disaster zones throughout her career as a search-and-rescue dog, including Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, before going on to work with her local fire department in Harris County, Tex., and finally spending her later years visiting elementary school classrooms to help kids become more confident with reading. She was also nominated for a Hero Dog Award with the American Humane Association in 2014 and received an extra-special sixteenth birthday party from NYC-based BarkPost last year.
Throughout every moment of her life, this dog was a true hero.
The first time Corliss and Bretagne worked together was at Ground Zero, and from that moment on, the two were inseparable. Corliss explained that although they sadly did not find any survivors, Bretagne came to be regarded as a “therapy dog” by traumatized firefighters and other first responders, who would approach the dog to pet her and tell stories about their missing loved ones and colleagues. “Dogs can be so comforting, so it makes sense to me now,” Corliss said. “I just didn’t anticipate that, then.”
She also recalled the moment she first met Bretagne, and how – even then – the brave canine displayed many key character traits that would later enable her to be a successful search-and-rescue dog. Though she was sharing a kennel with eight other puppies, Bretagne pushed her way to the front, determined to be the first to meet Corliss … and as her loving guardian put it, “That kind of pushy behavior helped her be the persistent don’t-give-up style of working dog that I needed later.”
However, her gentler side also came in useful during the last years of her life, when she and Corliss visited local elementary schools in order to assist kids who were experiencing difficulties with learning how to read. Corliss explained that children who “may be intimidated or uncomfortable reading out loud to their classmates, have an opportunity to develop reading skills by reading to her.”
Bretagne was honored during her sixteenth birthday party with the unveiling of a plaque in her name on the plaza of the 9/11 memorial … and on the day of her death, she was honored once again when local firefighters lined the pathway up to Fairfield Animal Hospital, as Corliss led her into the building to be euthanized after a long illness. When her body was carried out of the hospital, draped in an American flag, “tears streaked own some faces.”
Bretagne died in the arms of her loving guardian, Corliss, knowing that she had truly lived the life of a hero.
Rest in peace, beautiful Bretagne, and thank you for your life of selfless service.
All Image Source: CNN