The tragedy of September 11 left everyone reeling. It was a tragic day and an unbelievable event that will be remembered forever. But out of tragedy emerged heroes, beings who risked everything, including their lives, on the chance that another life could be saved. Bretagne (pronounced “Brittany”) was one of them. She was a golden retriever, and in June, she passed away shortly before her 17th birthday.
Bretagne (pronounced “Brittany”) was one of them. She was a golden retriever, and in June, she passed away shortly before her 17th birthday.
Ground Zero wasn’t the only rescue operation Bretagne was a part of. She also assisted search and rescue workers in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit, in Georgia for Hurricane Ivan, and for Hurricane Rita on the Gulf Coast.
It comes as no surprise that Bretagne was loved by many. Her owner and handler, Denise Corliss, and many more friends and fans of Bretagne in her hometown of Cypress, Texas, thought it important to honor the canine, and September 11 seemed like a fitting day on which to do it.
Unfortunately, another tragic hurricane landed two weeks before the ceremony was due to take place. Only this time, the hurricane, Hurricane Harvey, hit them where they lived.
Denise, who has been training search and rescue dogs for years, went to assist in communities surrounding her own, this time with her dog Taser. Debra’s hours both at the site and the hours she spends training the dogs are all volunteer work.
The community rallied, though, and the unveiling took place on time. So how did the people decide to commemorate this brave girl?
With a statue in her likeness. The statue, a bronze rendering of the dog, sits in Cypress at the entrance of the town’s Fairfield Subdivision, which is where Bretagne spent her life. When she wasn’t on the job, that is.
Denise Corliss states that the fact that the statue is right down the road from where she lives with her family, that she will drive past it every time she leaves the neighborhood and returns home, is an emotional experience.
Corliss sees meaning in the statue’s symbolism. She believes the statue “shows respect and gratitude for first responders and it honors the resilience of people who don’t want to stop living their lives.”
Bretagne was the first dog that Denise trained for search and rescue missions. Their first time out on the field was at the World Trade Center on September 11.
Even seasoned rescue volunteers couldn’t help but become overwhelmed with a sense of hopelessness and frustration. They weren’t finding any survivors, just human remains.
Corliss stated that she always believed they would find a survivor, but it wasn’t to be. The reality was the steel and ash, the papers that would catch the wind, and the bodies of those who perished. Bretagne was the last surviving dog out of all the ones who were there that day.
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