Texas firefighters say goodbye to last 9/11 search-and-rescue hero

Bretagne, a search-and-rescue Golden Retriever, began her career at Ground Zero after the attack on the World Trade Centers in New York City. (Photo Courtesy: KHOU)

CYPRESS, Tx. (KHOU) – The Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department, Texas Task Force One and the doting veterinary staff that has cared for her for 16 years, said a painful goodbye to a now renowned search-and-rescue dog whose career began at Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks in New York City.

Bretagne, pronounced Brittany, is the Golden Retriever who became the last surviving search-and-rescue dog from 9/11. But Monday, two months shy of her 17th birthday, declining health that included kidney failure prompted her handler, Denise Corliss, to make the difficult choice to have her humanely euthanized.

But the emotional event would not happen quietly.

Bretagne not only assisted during 9/11, she also searched for survivors during hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Bretagne not only assisted during 9/11, she also searched for survivors during hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Two dozen co-workers from the Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department, including other law enforcement personnel, formed a traditional wall of honor, saluting the canine as she entered Fairfield Animal Hospital in Cypress. They were there to salute her again 30-minutes later as she was carried from the veterinary clinic draped in the Texas flag.

“It’s a hard day for the entire fire department,” said David Padovan with Cy-Fair VFD. “She served her country. She served her community. And this is just a small way for us to honor her on her way out.”

In addition to being the last surviving search-and-rescue dog from 9/11, Bretagne also searched for survivors after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. And in retirement, she became a Cy-Fair celebrity, a mascot who served as an ambassador for Cy-Fair. And she became a therapy dog of sorts, a friend who first graders could read to at Waller ISD’s Roberts Road Elementary.

“Just to see all the kids come alive when she walks in the door is absolutely wonderful,” Padovan said.

Bretagne reading to elementary school students. (Photo: Cy-Fair VFD)
Bretagne reading to elementary school students. (Photo: Cy-Fair VFD)

 

“She’s part of Texas Task Force One. She’s part of the Cy-Fair Fire Department. She’s part of the Corliss family, to be honest. It’s like they’re losing a child,” said Cy-Fair VFD Chief Amy Ramon. “It’s very hard. Bretagne’s part of our family. I’ve known her for her entire life and she’s always been there. She’s one of us. It’s hard.”

And the hard goodbye, to a canine officer who left the veterinary office draped in the Texas flag, comes with one last offer of service. She’d been studied her entire life— for the impact of 9-11 pollutants. An autopsy in College Station, one last medical screening, will be her last selfless gift to give.

So don’t tell anyone in Cy-Fair this was just a dog. She was a co-worker, a companion and a friend whose 119 human years of service they won’t soon forget.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s