Last Search Dog Who Served At 9/11 Honored With Statue In Town Ravaged By Hurricane Harvey
Dogs inspire us, and it’s often the love of a dog that can give us hope in the darkest of time.
Bretagne, a rescue dog who inspired thousands of people, was honored this past Monday, September 11th. A life-size statue of this special dog was unveiled in a Cypress, Texas neighborhood that is still dealing with the effects of Hurricane Harvey.
Bretagne worked at Ground Zero in New York City after the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks. She was the last surviving search dog to have served at the site, but that wasn’t the only contribution that Bretagne made. She also served in response to Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita, Hurricane Ivan, and other disasters. She passed away just before her 17th birthday.
Bretagne’s friends, fans, and other first responders wanted to honor the dog’s significant contributions. They planned the ceremony for September 11th to honor Bretagne’s work and legacy, but had no idea that Hurricane Harvey would descend upon the town just two weeks before the ceremony.
Bretagne’s owner and handler, Denise Corliss, actually worked a two-week search-and-rescue mission, helping people in the areas that the hurricane hit. Corliss took time off from her job so that she could serve. She is a volunteer, receiving no compensation for the search and rescue missions and the time she spends training her dogs.
Corliss noted that it is during the worst times when people truly pull together. She’s also amazed that so many people wanted to do something for Bretagne, and that they worked together to create such a special ceremony honoring Bretagne and first responders.
The statue of Bretagne now stands at the entrance of the Fairfield subdivision of Cypress. It’s positioned in front of flagpoles, and is close to the Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department where Bretagne worked.
Corliss noted that thanks to the statue’s central position, she will pass it every time she enters and leaves the neighborhood. It’s a poignant reminder of the dog who accomplished so much.
Crafted by artist Lena Tortich, the statue depicts Bretagne when she was young and happy, showing the dog’s sweet disposition. Tortich worked from photos of the dog to create the sculpture.
When the statue was unveiled in Texas, it was meant to honor first responders. However, it also ended up making a statement about the resiliency of people, even in the face of disaster.
Bretagne was the first disaster search dog that Corliss worked with. When the pair was deployed to Ground Zero, they accompanied veteran rescue workers on one of the most challenging and frustrating searches of their career. Bretagne was one of about 300 search dogs who worked the site, but there were no survivors to be found.
When Bretagne turned 16 in August of 2015, BarkPost arranged a “Sweet 16” party. Held in New York City, the party included a billboard in Times Square and a cobblestone on the plaza of the 9/11 memorial that was dedicated in Bretagne’s honor.
Also in 2015, Bretagne was depicted in a book for children about senior dogs. She served as a reading assistance dog until she was 16 1/2, listening to first graders learn to read out loud and helping to reassure them during the process.
During the ceremony on Monday, children from the Roberts Road Elementary School, where Bretagne served as a reading assistance dog, sang a song in appreciation for everything the dog did. The Houston Fire Department Pipes and Drums band also played to honor the dog.
Even the sculpture was the result of people working together in Bretagne’s memory; the project was sponsored by the drainage district for the subdivision where Bretagne lived. Local contractors and businesses donated both their time and resources needed to bring the statue to life.
The inscription on Bretagne’s statue beautifully sums up what was so special about this dog:
“Bretagne’s years of service remind all of us how to live our best possible lives. Although she is no longer with us, her spirit lives on through those who serve.”