HOUSTON, Texas — The last known surviving Ground Zero search dog died at 16 on Monday, and human first responders gave her a tearful farewell.
Bretagne, a golden retriever who had since retired but was still a regular companion for some Houston-area firefighters, was ailing physically. With those same firefighters saluting her as they lined the path up to the Fairfield Animal Hospital, her owner, Denise Corliss, walked her in to be euthanized.
Bretagne’s body was brought out draped in an American flag, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Bretagne worked 12-hour days alongside 300 other dogs during her 9/11 mission. She was only 2 years old at the time.
When not searching for live victims, rescue dogs often served as therapy dogs for emergency responders. During an interview with the Today Show, Corliss recalled a time when Bretagne comforted a firefighter.
“It was like she was flipping me the paw,” Corliss told the Today Show. “She went right to that firefighter and laid down next to him and put her head on his lap.”
Search dogs that were present at Ground Zero not only worked long days, they also faced other roadblocks, including injury.
In 2015, Bretagne returned to New York City to celebrate her birthday:
Bretagne retired at age 10 after working to help victims of Ground Zero, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita and other disasters.
In her retirement, she helped train other search and rescue dogs and attended an elementary school reading program.