Last surviving 9/11 search-and-rescue dog dies

Bretagne, pronounced Brittany, a search-and-rescue Golden Retriever, began her career at Ground Zero after the attack on the World Trade Centers in New York City.

CYPRESS, Texas – 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. Bretagne was 2 years old when she and her handler, Denise Corliss, were part of the Texas Task Force 1 sent to the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan after the terrorist attack brought down the buildings on Sept. 11, 2001. They spent 10 days at the scene searching rubble for human remains.

But Monday, two months shy of her 17th birthday, declining health that included kidney failure prompted Corliss to make the difficult choice to have her humanely euthanized.

But the emotional event would not happen quietly.

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.

“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.

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