Around 6am on September 12th 2001, German Shepherd Canadian police dog Trakr found signs of life under the rubble at Ground Zero. Fire-fighters dug in, where he pointed and found Genelle Guzman, who had been inside the Twin Towers when they collapsed. She had been trapped for nearly 26 hours and would most likely have died, had Trakr not found her.
Over 300 search & rescue dogs alongside their handlers arrived in New York City, after 9/11. They came from all over America & Canada and as far a field as Puerto Rico and France to help find survivors among the twisted steel, body parts, piles of glass, and mountains of rubble. It was the largest deployment of dogs in a rescue mission in US history. Working gruelling 16-hour days, under their handlers, these agile, utterly focused and determined dogs, searched for survivors in nooks and crannies, tunnels and holes impossible for human’s to access.
Federal Rescue worker Bob Sessions said, “If these dogs only knew what a difference they make. Certainly, there’s nothing that can replace the precision of a dog’s nose, in rescue situations —and absolutely nothing that can replace a dog’s heart.”
Dogs smell as humans see. A field or building to them is like the vibrant colour picture of a high definition television is to us. A dog’s sense of smell is so animated; their noses can pick up layers of scent from the history of the area they are in. Rescue dogs have extensive training – but this builds on their natural ability to keep searching for life, these dogs will literally follow a scent until they are called off. ‘We need a dog over here’ was the continual call around the site.
The ability of the dogs to console humans became apparent when specialist ‘trauma therapy’ dogs were brought to Ground Zero to provide emotional support to the rescue workers who were traumatised by the disaster site. These dogs were specifically trained to pick up on trauma and go towards it, pursuing people they perceive to be in a state of distress. Rescue workers felt able to reach out to these dogs in ways they couldn’t to those humans around them. They said that the dogs consoled them and gave them solace and strength to keep going, day-after-day in the rubble.
As we remember those that passed 11 years ago today in that terrible tragedy, we also remember those that mounted the rescue mission, and the dogs that made their jobs, just that little bit more bearable.
Nicky Cahill, written & recorded August 2012
This thought was broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster this morning, 11 September 2012.
That's it for now ...
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