CHICAGO (CBS) – This past week, the nation marked the 12th anniversary of 9/11. The terrorist attacks that day took an enormous human toll and included a massive mobilization of rescue workers at Ground Zero along with nearly 300 search and rescue dogs from across America. The author of a new book says the legacy of the dogs includes some painful memories but valuable lessons too.
“It was just so devastating,” says Nan Walton, author of “Partners-Everyday Working Dogs Being Heroes Every Day.” She trained with several of the dogs dispatched to New York after 9/11. “Most of the dogs who went to ground zero were trained to search in rubble piles and what was left at Ground Zero were dust piles.”
Some of the dogs and their handlers found survivors but most did not. Walton says the dogs, which are trained to find living humans, found only death.
“All of those dogs were trained to find live and there was no live,” Walton told WBBM Newsradio. “Everything was so blown apart and the odor of death was all over and just it made the dogs almost crazy.”
Walton says human and canine members of the search and rescue teams became depressed by what ended up being a futile search for survivors in the rubble of the Twin Towers.
“The people at 9/11 were unable to because of the situation were not able to give the yippy, yippy, good boy we found live because they didn’t. I think the dogs were depressed because they knew their people were depressed. It goes down the leash,” says Walton. She, like other experts in the field of search and rescue, said 9/11 changed many of the dogs and some were unable to ever work again.
According to Walton, valuable lessons were learned from 9/11 and she thinks the response today would be much different. For example, most of the teams that would respond are no longer civilians, they are part of law enforcement or fire/EMS.
“A lot of the dogs at 9/11 were big dogs like German Sheperds and a lot of them got hurt and were unable to go into small places. As a result, the response teams are now using smaller dogs like Belgian Malinois and Border Collies. Both have high drives like German Shepherds but you can put them on your belt and carry them easier or lift them up and down a ladder easier. You’re lifting 50 pounds instead of 100 pounds.”
“Partners-Everyday Working Dogs Being Heroes Every Day” from Hubble and Hattie Publishing includes first-hand accounts from 30 professional handlers and highlights the abilities of dogs, their bonds with humans and their often heroic missions to save lives and uphold the law.
“The whole species is giving to man in ways you just can’t calculate,” says Walton. “I want people to know these fabulous things are being done right around them every day by dogs. I want to elevate their status. I want people to say wow!”
In honor of the 12th anniversary of 9/11, Animal Planet aired a new documentary “Hero Dogs of 9/11,” which chronicles the lives and heroic efforts of the 300 dogs who worked at Ground Zero.
Just a few months ago, the last of the 9/11 search and rescue dogs died. Porkchop was just a year old on September 11, 2001. His heroic work at Ground Zero is immortalized in an iconic photo that shows him being comforted by his handler while receiving an I-V treatment for dehydration.
You can learn more about “Partners-Everyday Working Dogs Being Heroes Every Day” and Nan Walton at HubbleandHattie.com, on Twitter @HubbleandHattie, at caninepartnershipsforgebonds.com or the Partners Facebook page.
To listen to the full interview with Nan Walton, click here.