First responders, dressed in uniform, lined the walkway of a veterinarian’s office Monday afternoon to salute and give a hero’s send-off to the last known 9/11 search and rescue dog.
Bretagne, 16, and her handler, Denise Corliss, were part of a Texas task force sent to Ground Zero after terrorists attacked the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The pair spent 10 days searching through rubble in order to find survivors.
"When our task force arrived in Ground Zero, I just couldn’t believe the magnitude of it. Then I looked down to [Bretagne], and she seemed stoic and ready to work," Corliss told BarkPost. Corliss and her family made the decision to put Bretagne down on Monday due to kidney failure and old age. Corliss told Today that Bretagne was anxious her last night.
"So I laid down with her, right next to her," Corliss said. "When she could feel me, she could settle down and go to sleep. I slept with her like that all night."
Bretagne retired at age 9 but began experiencing joint pain and stiffness a few years later and eventually avoided the stairs inside her home completely. Corliss installed an above-ground pool to let Bretagne swim for at least 10 minutes a day. Bretagne also spent time volunteering as a reading assistance dog at a nearby elementary school.
"She started doing the stairs again. Then we started focusing on ways to keep her mentally active," Corliss said. "Helping kids with their reading in school [was] great for that."
Bretagne was a finalist for the American Humane Association’s Hero Dog Awards in 2014. Last year, she was also recognized on a national scale when the duo revisited Ground Zero. BarkPost coordinated a "Sweet 16" birthday bash in honor of Bretagne last August. The celebration included a billboard in Times Square and a cobblestone on the plaza of the 9/11 memorial in honor of Bretagne.
After the tearful goodbye, Bretagne’s body was covered with an American flag as she was carried out of the hospital. A spokesperson for the Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department said, "Some may say that the most a dog could be is a pet, however, to the over 400 members of the Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department, Bretagne was a civil servant, a hero, and is family."