August 25, 1999 - June 6, 2016
Bretagne (pronounced Brit-nee), the last known FEMA Search & Rescue Canine
who served at Ground Zero, has died peacefully at her home in Cypress, Texas.
She was a remarkable animal who deployed with
her handler Denise Corliss and other members of Texas Task Force 1 (TX-TF1) to
the site of the World Trade Center for 10 days in 2001. A Golden Retriever, Bretagne was 2 years old
and newly certified as a FEMA Search and Rescue canine when she deployed with
the Texas urban search and rescue team to the worst terrorism incident in U.S.
At age 15, Bretagne and Corliss returned to
New York City for the first time since her deployment in 2001 for an interview
with NBC News’ Tom Brokaw at the 9/11 Memorial. View
During her incredible career with TX-TF1,
Bretagne responded to nearly a dozen other disasters, including Hurricanes
Katrina, Rita and Ivan.
Bretagne retired from formal search work at
age 9, but continued to serve others as a goodwill ambassador for her local
fire department and as a reading assistance dog at an elementary school near
her home. She also became a star of a non-fiction book about senior dogs, met
Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott, and late last year, met with former President
George H.W. Bush at his Presidential Library in College Station, TX.
In 2014, Bretagne was nominated for the
American Humane Association “Hero Dog Award” and received the red carpet
treatment during a ceremony in Hollywood, CA.
her Hero Dog Awards video.
She also gained worldwide media attention as
she celebrated her 16th birthday last year with a Sweet 16 birthday
bash in New York City. Watch the video of
Bretagne’s Best Day.
Bretagne was 8 weeks old when she met Corliss,
a volunteer firefighter with the Cy-Fair Fire Department, who was seeking a
special dog to train for disaster work. Soon Bretagne and Corliss were fast
friends. When Bretagne was 12 months old, she and Corliss began formal training
with Texas Task Force 1 to become a FEMA-certified canine team. Bretagne’s
drive, determination and personality were well-suited to her career as a Search
and Rescue dog.
A teammate wrote this of
Bretagne, “If you ask anybody whoever knew or trained with Bretagne, they would
tell you ‘Oh she just loves me!’. That’s the kind of dog she is, affectionate
to everybody, and fiercely devoted, never takes her eyes off her handler. She
has always taken her job as a search dog seriously, but herself not so much.
Always ready for a belly rub, or a treat. In remembering her first deployment
at the World Trade Center, there are images of her going to where she was
directed to search, the unknown, the chaotic environment. But even then, she
knew who needed the comfort of a dog, which firefighter needed to hold her
close and stroke her fur.”
Bretagne had a long-term relationship with the
Penn Vet Working Dog Center, where her namesake, Bretagne 2, was trained as a
diabetic alert dog for an individual with severe Type 1 diabetes.
As a feature about her 16th
birthday said: “To Bretagne and all of the working dogs who give so selflessly
to help humans around the world, thank you.”