The unsung canine heroes of the 9/11 terror attacks

Almost three thousand people died in the attacks of 9/11 and in the immediate days that followed nearly 100 search and rescue dogs and their handlers scoured Ground Zero for survivors.

The dogs began their search for the living but before long they were finding only bodies or body parts.

Some people were saved from the burning towers by Guide Dogs already in the building.

Rescue dogs did find survivors in the rubble and, later, found items such as jewellery that could be returned to victims’ families.

Many body parts were found by dogs trained to find cadavers – all helping to identify the dead and bring some comfort to relatives.

During the aftermath s earch and rescue dogs found so few living people that it caused them great stress because they believed they had failed.

Handlers and rescue workers had to regularly hide in the rubble in order to give the rescue dogs a successful find and keep their spirits up.

Vets were stationed at the site to help care for these dogs. Working 12-hour shifts on the pile, the dogs needed to have their paw pads, eyes and nose cleaned often.

The last living person rescued from Ground Zero was Genelle Guzman-McMillan who was pulled from rubble 27 hours after the collapse after being found by one of these search and rescue dogs.

One of the unsung heroes of 9/11 was a guide dog, Roselle, who led her blind owner, Michael Hingson, from the 78th story of the North Tower, a staggering 1,463 steps out of the building to the safety of a subway station.

Another guide dog called Salty, the guide dog for Omar E. Rivera, led Rivera and his co-workers to safety from the 71st floor of the Twin Towers.

Rivera recalled how they tried escaping down the nearest flight of stairs, but it was filled with smoke and became very hot and he thought it was too much for Salty so let go of his harness so the dog could head down alone.

"I tried to let him go down first for a few minutes, but he said, ‘No’” Rivera said. “He refused to leave me. He came back to me. He said, "We are together. As long as we are in here, we are together.’”

They made it down to the street level, safe.

One dog who was not so lucky was Sirius an Explosive Detection Dog with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department.

He was the only police dog to die in the 9/11 attack as he was in his kennel at the bottom of the World Trade Center when it collapsed.

Today the dogs have all passed away but before they died Dutch photographer Charlotte Dumas captured many of the remaining dogs in their twilight years in their homes where they lived with their handlers.

In June 20016 the last surviving rescue dog Bretagne said goodbye agedd 16 and was given a hero’s farewell.

Firefighters and rescue workers lined the sidewalk as her body, draped in an American flag, was carried out of Fairfield Animal Hospital by her owner, Denise Corliss.

The Mirror’s Animal Hero Awards, in partnership with Webbox and RSPCA, celebrate courageous and inspirational animals and the people who make a difference to their lives and welfare.

Last year’s winners included PD Finn, the police dog that nearly died after he was stabbed by an armed robber, and Storm Burgess, 12, who raised £12,000 for animal charities, despite suffering health problems.

The awards also honoured London Fire Brigade dogs for working ­alongside firefighters in the burned-out ruins of Grenfell Tower.

The winners, chosen by a judging panel including animal experts and campaigners, will be honoured at an awards dinner at ­Grosvenor House in London in September

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