9/11 Dog Heroes

Following the attacks on September 11, 2001, thousands of courageous heroes were there to help at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania. Hundreds of these heroes were dogs.

The following are just a few of the many dogs who put their lives at risk to help people during a tragic time in US history.


Genelle Guzman-McMillan was working on the 64th floor of the World Trade Center's north tower the day the terrorists attacked. Her and about 15 employees from her team of Port Authority workers tried to evacuate the building after American Airlines flight 11 crashed into it. The building began to collapse as Genelle was making her way down the stairs. She made it to the 13th floor before being pinned under cement and steel. She laid in darkness under the rubble for 27 hours before she was rescued. Only one of her co-workers survived. Genelle was the last person to be found alive.

Trakr, a German shepherd from Canada, was the one who traced Genelle's scent, leading rescuers to her. "It's so awesome that the dogs could have this kind of sense, to find people buried under the rubble," Genelle told Animal Planet for their documentary Hero Dogs of 9/11. After two days of hard work, Trakr collapsed from smoke inhalation, chemical exposure, burns and exhaustion. He was treated and released to return home with James Symington, his handler and Canadian police officer. Trakr passed away in 2009.

Riley and Bailey

Eileen Roemer was an FBI agent and Navy Reservist at the time of the 9/11 attacks. After taking a course in body recovery at the FBI, she had her dog Riley trained to be a search and recovery dog. He proved to be great at his job and enjoyed doing the work. Bailey came to Eileen through an animal control officer who had found him chained to a post at a breeder's kennel. He was emaciated, had rotting teeth, and was covered with fleas and ticks. Eileen's plan was to get Bailey back to health and give him to a family she knew. The plan fell through so Eileen kept him. She soon discovered he had the drive and abilities of being a search and recovery dog, so she decided to have him trained.

On that fateful day in September, Eileen was working at the Pentagon. She got off work at 7:30 in the morning and about two hours later American Airlines flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. Eileen, Riley and Baily went to the Pentagon searching for human remains. This was Bailey's first search and recovery. The dogs worked 12 hour shifts searching through the debris for 12 long days. Despite Bailey's abused past by humans, he (and Riley) helped bring closure to many families of 9/11 victims. Riley passed away in 2005 and Bailey in 2010.


This heroic dog story involves a guide dog named Roselle belonging to Michael Hingson. Hingson was working on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center's north tower when the crash happened on the other side of the building, 18 floors above. The Labrador retriever calmly guided his blind owner down 1,463 steps and out the building. "The two of us had a very interdependent relationship," Hingson recalls. "She kept me as calm as I kept her. I just kept encouraging her." Just as they got out of the building, the south tower collapsed. Hingson said Roselle remained calm and totally focused while everyone ran in panic and debris fell around them.

Roselle passed away in 2011, nearly 10 years after the attacks. “She was an amazing dog who taught me a lot about patience and unconditional love,” says Hingson. “And when I remember how she behaved on that morning in 2001, I think the most powerful thing she taught me was that working together is the most powerful thing we can do.”


Jake, a 10 month old puppy, was adopted by Mary Flood after living on the streets with a broken leg and a dislocated hip. With much love, the disabled pup went on to become a world class search and rescue dog, a teacher to train future dogs, and a comforter to people in need. Following the 9/11 attacks, Jake spent 17 days searching for survivors and victims at the World Trade Center. He assisted after many disasters, including Hurricane Katrina. Jake later developed cancer and was put to sleep in 2007 at the age of 12. "He was a great morale booster wherever he went," Flood said.


Bretagne's first deployment as a US government-certified rescue dog was at the World Trade Center, and she and her owner Denise Corliss spent two weeks working 12 hour shifts at Ground Zero. "It was her first mission, but she worked it like a pro," said Corliss. Bretagne retired from search work at age 9. She continued to work in her retirement helping children with special needs. On June 6, 2016, the 16 year old golden retriever was ill and put to sleep. She was the last surviving rescue dog who worked at Ground Zero following the 9/11 attacks.

When the dogs weren't searching the rubble, they would help human rescuers cope with their emotional trauma - as well as the therapy dogs that were brought in. According to Dr. Cynthia Otto, a veterinarian who cared for the heroic dogs at Ground Zero, "You'd see firefighters sitting there, unanimated, stone-faced, no emotion, and then they'd see a dog and break out into a smile. Those dogs brought the power of hope. They removed the gloom for just an instant."


Sirius, born in 1997, was not a search and rescue dog, a cadaver dog or a therapy dog. He was a member of the NY/NJ Port Authority Police Department and worked as an Explosives Detection Dog, and he was the only dog to die in the 9/11 attacks.

Sirius and his partner, Officer David Lim, were working in the basement of the World Trade Center's south tower checking vehicles for explosives when the attack happened. Officer Lim put Sirius in his kennel in the basement and left to help those in the north tower. Officer Lim survived but had to go to the hospital for injuries. He was not able to make it back to the basement for Sirius before the south tower fell. Sirius died and his body was recovered on January 22, 2002. He received full police honors upon recovery.

"My kids played with him," Lim said. "We miss him a lot."

A memorial statue honoring the dogs of 9/11

The 9/11 dogs were able to search large areas faster than humans. They were able to search areas that were too unstable for humans. They searched day and night, without the equipment humans had like face masks. Many were injured, but well taken care of. Injuries that were not too serious were tended to, then they were back on the job. Dogs trained for rescue (not recovery) somehow knew there were no living survivors left, but they went on to help find human remains. Personal items were also found by the dogs to be given to the families of the decease.

This was a devastating time in US history, and dogs were there to help mankind.