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Monday, September 5, 2011

The 9/11 rescue dogs: Portraits of the last surviving animals who scoured Ground Zero one decade on

By Anna Edwards

During the chaos of the 9/11 attacks, where almost 3,000 people died, nearly 100 loyal search and rescue dogs and their brave owners scoured Ground Zero for survivors.

Now, ten years on, just 12 of these heroic canines survive, and they have been commemorated in a touching series titled 'Retrieved' for a book to sing their praises.

The dogs worked tirelessly to try and search for those trapped in the rubble, along with countless emergency service workers and members of the public.

Moxie, 13, from Winthrop, Massachusetts, arrived with her handler, Mark Aliberti, at the World Trade Center on the evening of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, and searched the site for 8 days

Tara, 16, from Ipswich, Massachusetts, arrived at the World Trade Centre on the night of the 11th. The dog and her handler Lee Prentiss were there for 8 days

Kaiser, 12, pictured at home in Indianapolis, Indiana was deployed to the World Trade Center September 11, 2001, and looked for people in the rubble

Traveling across nine states in the US from Texas to Maryland, Charlotte Dumas, 34, captured the remaining dogs in their twilight years in their homes where they still live with their handlers, a full decade on from the horrific attacks on America.

Noted for her touching portraits of animals, especially dogs, Charlotte wanted 'Retrieved' to mark not only the anniversary of the September 2001 attacks, but also as recognition for some of the first responders and their dogs.

'I felt this was a turning point, especially for the dogs, who although are not forgotten, are not as prominent as the human stories involved,' explained Charlotte, who splits her time between New York and Amsterdam.

'They speak to us as a different species and animals are greatly important for our sense of empathy and to put things into perspective.'

Bretagne and his owner Denise Corliss from Cypress, Texas, arrived at the site in New York on September 17, remaining there for ten days

Bretagne takes a break from work at the 9/11 site with Denise

Guinness, 15, from Highland California, started working at the site with Sheila McKee on the morning of the 13th and were deployed at the Centre for 11 days

Merlyn and his handler Matt Claussen were deployed to the on the 24th September, working the night shift for five days

Most of the search and rescue dogs are Labrador or Golden Retrievers and Charlotte feels that the title works across many aspects.

'I found the dogs, I retrieved them, they were there to retrieve the victims, it is nicely rounded,' explained Charlotte whose work is being exhibited at the Julie Saul Gallery NYC opening on September 8, in time for the anniversary.

After working on a project about police canines and other working dogs, she was inspired to concentrate on the animals that played such a huge part in seeking survivors.

Contacting the NYPD, the New York Fire Department and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Charlotte discovered that out of the nearly 100 dogs among the first responders deployed by FEMA, there were in fact only 15 still alive last year.

Red, 11, from Annapolis, Maryland, went with Heather Roche to the Pentagon from September 16 until the 27 as part of the Bay Area Recovery Canines

Abigail, left, was deployed on the evening of September 17, searching for 10 days while Tuff arrived in the city at 11:00 pm on the day of attack to start working early the next day

Scout and another unknown dog lay among the rubble at Ground Zero, just two of nearly 100 search and rescue animals who helped to search for survivors

'They were there for the first few weeks, they were trained to find people alive, although that is ultimately not what happened,' said Charlotte, who will hold a fundraiser for the First Responder Alliance to be held at Clic Bookstore in New York on September 29.

'I traveled across the United States to meet with the owners and portray the dogs. They are all retired and I spent time with each of their handlers learning about their experiences.

'It was moving talking to Denise Corliss, who is the handler and owner of Bretagne, one of the Golden Retrievers.

'She told me a touching story of one fireman who was there in the rubble, and how taken he was with Bretagne who comforted him as he sat down to catch his breath.

Handler Julie Noyes and Hoke were deployed to the World Trade Centre from their home in Denver on September 24 and searched for 5 days

Searching for survivors: The dogs tirelessly worked to help find those who survived the horrific attacks

'Years later at a Remembrance Ceremony, the same fireman recognised Bretagne and her handler and they had a touching reunion.

'It developed that even though the dogs couldn't find people still alive, they could provide comfort for the brave firemen and rescue workers of the emergency services.'

Wishing to tell the other side of heroism from 9/11, each of Charlotte's encounters with dogs such as Gabriel and Orion and Scout stayed with her.

'The dogs are now old and they will soon pass away. Even during the time it has taken since my first work on the 'Retrieved' portraits to now, three of the final 15 have died,' said Charlotte.

'These portraits are about how time passes, and how these dogs and their portraits are offering us a way to deal with the things that happened as well as relying on them for comfort.'



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