Four-Footed Golden Therapy at Ground Zero
Ground Zero Canine & K-9
Disaster Relief Organization Receive State of NYs Highest Award from Governor George
K-9 Disaster Relief, January 1, 2003
State of New York Governor George Pataki presented K-9
Disaster Relief and Nikie, NiCad Batteries Rechargeable, with a Certificate of
Recognition at a special award ceremony in the Executive Chamber in New York City. Nikie
is a 120-pound Golden Retriever trained by his handler, Frank Shane of Upper Montclair,
New Jersey. Shane is a professional canine-assisted therapist and Executive Director of
the Non-Profit Organization, K-9 Disaster Relief Organization.
During the award presentation, Governor Pataki said, Nikie is a
canine who has demonstrated outstanding abilities in K-9 therapy with K-9 Disaster Relief,
which has helped provide relief for people. Trained in disaster relief therapy
techniques, Nikie is recognized nationally for his special skill and ability to cope with
stress and confront the challenges of disaster situations. The Governor recognized
Nikie and the Organization for their relentless work at Ground Zero in New York
City, as well as at community centers, schools and other locations where they have aided
humans during times of crisis. K-9 Disaster Relief and Nikie have positively
assisted New York City firefighters, police officers, World Trade Center employees, and
victims families and children affected by the tragic events of September 11th and
November 12th, truly proving to be a mans best friend.
Since the World Trade Center tragedy of September 11th and the American
Airlines flight 587 crash of November 12th, Shane has pioneered canine disaster relief. To
show his appreciation, Shane presented the Governor with a special red, white and blue
Ground Zero hard hat and the official K-9 Organization lapel pin. I believe that
canine-assisted therapy is one of the best ways to build a healthier and more peaceful
world. I accept this award on behalf of the thousands of people Nikie and K-9 Disaster
Relief have helped.
The mission and purpose of the K-9 Disaster Relief Organization is to
aid and assist government, police, fire and volunteer organizations during disasters and
incident response situations. This is achieved through K-9 Therapy to provide comfort for
victims and victim families working in conjunction with mental health, clergy and other
trained professionals. To that end, K-9 Disaster Relief recruits, evaluates, trains,
monitors and credentials volunteers from bona fide pet therapy organizations. The
Organization currently provides services for the American Red Cross and the Mayors
Office of Emergency Management.
The K-9 Disaster Relief Organization has provided non-profit services
in conjunction with American Red Cross Mental Health at Disaster Relief Headquarters 787,
Family Assistance Center at Pier 94, Service Center 1 and Ground Zero Respite centers.
Mental Health Director, Lisa Taylor, evaluated and thanked K-9 Disaster Relief and Nikie
for their dedication and hard work. You have provided an extremely valuable mental
health service to the American Red Cross sites on this disaster. I personally witnessed
the interaction with staff and clients alike with very positive results. K-9
Disaster Relief has been requested to continue to provide canine-therapy services at
Ground Zero and other assignments.
As a non-profit organization, K-9 Disaster Relief volunteers and
canines are unpaid, except in the fulfillment that comes from aiding and assisting
others. Grants and funding from foundations, organizations, companies and individuals are
needed to help defray the costs to provide disaster relief services, including training
and certification. Also, special equipment and protective clothing, veterinary care and
special outreach programs with schools, pet therapy associations, social services and
Nikies special abilities since September 11th have been
recognized throughout the United States. On November 5th he was featured on National
Public Radios All Things Considered. On December 11th an interview was
recorded for CNN. On December 17th and 21st he was on Discovery Channels Animal
Planet. The Washington Post featured his work on the front page of the December 19, 2001
National Edition: Victims at Risk Again: Counselors Scramble to Avert Depression,
Suicides After September 11. On December 24, 2001, NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw
produced a special segment featuring Nikies exceptional Ground Zero therapy
techniques and how he helps volunteers cope with the stress of helping victims. Since
October, National Geographic Magazine has been documenting and chronicling Nike. The
Associated Press is photographing and writing an article on Nikie and K-9 Disaster Relief
at Ground Zero.
During October, November and December, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani met Nikie
on numerous occasions, including the Ground Zero victims memorial service and the
Veterans Day memorial service with President George W. Bush. Following the
dedication ceremonies of the City of New Yorks respite facility at Ground Zero, the
Mayor smiled and came over to Nikie and said while petting him, when I see him, I
feel better too!
Animal-Assisted Therapy Dog
Pennington, Director of
(Human-Animal Relational Therapies), Mahopac, NY, January 2003
Diane and her wonderful group have been very busy working
with families at Pier 94 in Manhattan. This is the location of the Family Assistance
Center where families of those who lost loved ones or were affected by the World Trade
Center disaster are receiving assistance. Diane wrote to me on December 28, 2001 about a
youngster who was affected by the magic of her very own partner Hunter an
exceptional Golden Animal-Assisted Therapy Dog.
The coordinator for the AAT Teams at the Family
Assistance Center contacted Diane on January 6, 2003. This boy's family (as detailed in
the following story) had gone to them to request that Hunter send a picture of himself to
"Bobby". Diane and her organization are sending him a stuffed Golden Retriever
(darn near life-size) in full H.A.R.T. uniform, to be his "Hunter Jr." for as
long as he wants.
There are too many stories to mention so I will tell you
about my interaction with one young man as it has very much stuck in my memory. Ill
call him Bobby he's about 9 or 10 years of age. On one of the group's earlier
visits, Bobby and his sisters were in the Childrens Corner with their mother. He was
drawing, but stopped in order to meet Hunter. We sat for a few minutes chatting and
talking about Hunter, Bobby then learning a great deal about him.
When I asked if hed like to take Hunter for a walk, we
asked his mother who decided to come with us. We walked around with Bobbys hand on
the end of the lead (mine in the middle) and were being stopped by other staff and
volunteers along the way. They began asking questions about Hunter and I directed them to
Bobby for the answers. He began telling them where Hunter liked to be scratched and
petted, where his favorite spot was and how if they fed him treats, their hand would get
slimed. He really enjoyed that part.
He then asked me to walk with him to the Wall of Bears (a wall of
pictures and flyers of the missing, and notes from families) and took me directly to a
flyer of his father. Bobby pointed and said Thats a picture of my dad,
thats my dad. I felt my throat grabbing, took a deep breath and said I see your dad. His mother began to
cry and we stood there, the four of us as Bobby comforted his mother, saying,
Its okay, Mom. Itll be okay. I remembered thinking When?
When will it be okay? Wow, this kid is working to take care of his mom.
We sat down in front of the Wall for a few minutes and I let
Bobby lead the conversation, as we stroked Hunter on his side and belly. We continued
walking and Bobby proudly answered questions about Hunter for anyone who asked. He was in
control. Bobby had Hunter as his own for that hour.
When all of the teams left together as a group, we passed Bobby
and his Mom and saw that Bobby was now holding a large white stuffed gorilla. Mom then
asked again for my dogs name to which I replied, Hunter. She thought
that would be a good name for the gorilla. Bobby nodded his head and said Yeah,
Ill call him Hunter. As we left, Bobby's mother looked at us and with tears
welling in her eyes personally said, Thank you to each team member. I left
that interaction thinking that it may have been the most important impact Hunter and I had
At the center, there are so many stern appearing healthcare
workers and fire and police personnel walking about. But, they typically stop in their
tracks and immediately drop to their knees to hug or pet Hunter. I believe having a
neutral, pure and organic source of comfort and affection some CONNECTION in the
midst of the circumstances helps people to stop for a moment and BREATHE.
Even the Dogs Helped Console
By Pamela Turpin, The Telegram, St. John's,
NF Canada, October 19, 2001
As a result of the despicable acts of terrorism Sept. 11,
the city of St. John's housed 5,000 of the approximately 13,000 air travelers who were
stranded for several days in Newfoundland due to the closing of American air space.
A myriad of people rallied together to support these people. Canines
reportedly made a major contribution in the rescue and recovery mission in New York. In
our fair city, one dog in particular offered his services.
Skipper swept love into our hearts since he first entered our lives
seven years ago, courtesy of Alan and Robyn Thorne of Saltwater Golden Retrievers.
When there was a halt in air traffic, Skipper went to work in the role
he has accepted for the past several years, as an internationally registered therapy dog.
We were able to provide assistance by putting a twist in the routine, and encouraging
people to talk about their pets, to reminisce about all that is good in their life and to
consider what their pets have given them. People talked with me about the dogs empowering
them. One man used hand signals to get Skipper to follow directions, and was surprised
that Skipper would listen to a stranger. He thanked us for empowering him, because since
the horrific events Sept. 11 he was left feeling powerless.
Another man didn't even like dogs. At least, he didn't think he did
until he met Skipper. He also spent a long time with Skipper, petting him and asking
questions, amazed at his own interest.
People came in and made a beeline to Skipper, asking if he wanted a
bum-scratch. I knew these people where definitely dog lovers. Skipper has never had as
many bum scratches in his whole life as he did during those special therapy visits.
Another lady who was provided a Spanish translator spoke about her
work. She trains Golden Retrievers for visually-impaired people. She would sit on the
floor to cuddle with Skipper.
People rubbing Skipper as well as other therapy dogs and
telling animal-related stories alleviated some of the uncertainty in their lives. I was
grateful to receive special permission to show the therapy dogs. They did make a
Skipper took time out of his busy play schedule and frequent swimming
excursions to Paddy's Pond so he could provide some semblance of home, a sense of place,
for otherwise there can be no peace, no comfort, no security and no rest.
Skipper allowed these people to feel at home. We consider home the
base, ground zero for happiness and success in life. The actual dwelling is inside us, and
Skipper through touch rekindled that sense.
Pamela Turpin (affectionately owned by Skipper) lives in St. John's with her three
registered therapy dogs, with whom she makes visits to various institutions, such as
hospitals, chronic care facilities and nursing homes.