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Hero Dogs of 9/11

Story ID:929
Written by:Suzana Margaret Megles (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:New York New York USA
Year:2001
Person:Appollo - dog
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Subject: Forgotten heroes of 9/11

I have a notoriously bad habit. I'll pick up a magazine and read it for a bit
and then put it aside. It rarely gets finished and is soon forgotten as I
peruse a new one. The result - piles and piles of magazines going way
back to the twentieth century. (Sounds ages ago, doesn't it?) But there is
a bright side to this ominous picture which has me surrounded by mountains -
all right- maybe "hills" of incompletely read magazines. I sometimes find myself
really being current and timely despite the time lag!

Take my reading today of the June 2002 Family Circle Magazine. In it I
reread the wonderful special report by Kathryn Rose Gertz entitled "The Hero
Dogs of 9/11." All last week on TV I saw the many stories connected with 9/11,
but to my knowledge, the one re the heroics of the 9/11 rescue dogs was not
carried or mentioned. So, I reread this special report with great interest and
appreciation for these wonderful dogs and their handlers. By read's end, my eyes
were glistening with tears of gratitude and appreciation for these wonderful,
lovable, furry rescue dogs and their handlers.

Though those of us who love dogs all recognize their wonderful worth, they are
especially beloved by their handlers. The picture of Officer Pete Davis and Appollo
immediately made me recall that I had read this story before and it kept me
mesmerized now as it did for the first reading.

Officer Davis almost lost Appollo when a firefighter called out for him to search a
particular area of rubble. Because water had pooled from the gush of fire hydrants,
Appollo had to swim through it. As they began their search, suddenly in a blink,
Appollo fell through the debris. Davis watched stunned as his dog disappeared down
into one of the covered voids that formed dangerous pockets in the debris. Then to
his horror the hole erupted in flame. A split second later miraculously Appollo jumped
out - his fur dotted with red sparks which Davis quickly brushed off. Luckily, because
Appollo's coat had been soaked from the swim, he was not badly burned.

A much relieved Davis seeing that Appollo was still raring to go after his close call,
let him finish their 16 hour shift. Only when it was finished did he then allow himself
to make the realization that he almost lost his partner of 8 years. His voice turning soft
as he talked to the reporter, he remarked "He's an amazing dog." There is mutual
admiration in Appollo's eyes as he looks at Davis with gleaming, watchful, and adoring
eyes.

In their years together Appollo received a number of NYPD medals for "excellent
service." And although he specializes in search work, he is also cross-trained to
help out in almost any situation as are all NYPD ESU K-9's.

As Appollo's efforts produced no results, Davis began to notice that Appollo was
becoming disheartened. So, incredibly attuned to his dog's frustration, he asked
one of the cops to hide in the rubble so that Appollo could find him and get the
sought after dog equivalent "hi-five" - good boy - atta boy! for having found a survivor.
Lt. Dan Donadio in charge of the K-9 Team remarked -"We love our dogs. They
would die for us and we trust them wth our lives."

Appollo and the other rescue dogs even added soothing moments of comfort for the
people struggling to regain balance in a world which had become topsy-turvy. And
to help further in this endeavor, Therapy Dogs International put out a call to the
Schoff's of PA and asked them if they would bring their two sweet Dalmatians,
Trapper and Hawkeye, to provide contact and comfort and just being there to be
hugged by anyone needing it.

All in all, there was an estimated 300 search and rescue K-9 dogs and their handlers-
some from as far away as Canada and France who joined in the effort at Ground Zero
to search through "the pile" as the 16 acres of rubble was called. Most worked 12 grueling
hour shifts. And the continued ability of the dogs to work in these horrendous conditions
was largely due to another group of volunteers whom we seem to have forgotten as well.

Much thanks and gratitude is also due the 250 volunteer veterinarians who kept the dogs
fit. "First of all, we tried to head off problems by giving them all preventative antibiotics
and daily intravenous fluids," said Barbara Kalvig, D.V.M. coordinator of the effort. "And
at the end of their shift the dogs were brought right to us for a complete check-up" as
well as a thorough wash-down to remove the thick dust from their coats and an eye
check for corneal damage. Largely due to these dog "angels of mercy," only two dogs
were retired from Ground Zero work. Today they are both fine and back on the job.

For me, 9/11 rememberance week would never be complete without recalling the
9/11 hero dogs, their handlers, therapy dogs, and the vets who made sure they
were given the best medical attention they needed and so richly deserved. 9/11,
while a tragedy of untold proportions, brought out the very best in us and our furry
friends.