Disaster Search and Rescue: Join the Team
Rob Cima and Search Dog Harley

Sadly, disasters happen in this world — with earthquakes, tornadoes and bombs reducing huge office buildings to rubble. The dogs who search out victims in these collapsed structures are called Disaster Search Dogs. They are the only ones at this time who are trained to do this work and they must submit to very difficult testing and national certification standards. In our nation as of August 2001, there are only 48 dog and handler teams trained to an Advanced level and certified as FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] Type 1 Advanced Canine Teams.

The above photo, taken at the World Trade Center on September 14, 2001 by Gary Friedman of the Los Angeles Times, shows Northern California firefighter Rob Cima taking a break with Advanced Golden Search Dog Harley.

The dogs working at the World Trade Center disaster site provided a large morale boost. Exhausted rescue workers often took the time to ask their names, find out where they were from, and to give them a loving pat. Golden Riley

Preston Keres, a photographer with the US Navy, took the incredible photo of Golden rescue dog Riley being transported out of the debris of the World Trade Center on September 15, 2001.

Riley is a member of FEMA's PA TF 1. His wonderful handler is Chris Selfridge, a fire fighter with Johnstown, Pennsylvania's Fire Department, IAFF Local 463. We cannot believe the level of training that these special workers must go through. Certainly, they need to be able to deal well with heights (which would rule me out!). Below is video of Riley in action. The ending shot is just classic, as Riley's head is cradled in one of the rescue member's arms. (Click on the YouTube logo in the lower right hand corner).








As Gerald Lauber of the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals commented, ''All they really want to do is work hard and love you. How can that not raise the human spirit in us all?'' But, these four-footed furry workers tired as well in their hard work as shown in this wonderful AFP Golden photo taken by Preston Keres.

Discover a great book, Dog Heroes of September 11th: A Tribute to America's Search and Rescue Dogs. The book details the stories of 77 handlers and their Search and Rescue dogs who responded at the World Trade Center & Pentagon following the September 11th attacks. Riley , a golden retriever, is one of the most famous dogs of Sept. 11 because of a photo taken of him at the World Trade Center site a few days after the attacks. In the photo, Riley is in a basket being sent over a 60-foot-deep canyon to search the rubble of the North Tower. "Normally when we send a dog, the handler goes with him," said Riley's trainer, Chris Selfridge. "This time we decided it was more practical to just send the dog."

Explore and Learn More
Learn more about disaster dogs and their tough training requirements at DisasterDog.org. And, check out this wonderful article, When the Search is Over. And learn more about being prepared for disasters, which includes our 2-footed and 4-footed family members, as well as meeting some very brave Ground Zero Goldens below. ba


Meet Golden Riley

Four-legged heroes at ground zero
By Lee J. DiVita, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association December 15, 2001

John Gilkey, an electrical engineer for the Lear Corporation in Carlisle, Pa., was doing the same thing most of the country was doing on the morning of Sept. 11: watching the news unfolding in New York City. He had called his wife, and the head of the Pennsylvania State Urban Search and Rescue Task Force. By the time he got back near the office television, and heard a plane had crashed into the Pentagon, he had three words for his boss: "I'm outta here."

"I didn't know where I was going, but I was going somewhere," said Gilkey, also a canine search specialist for the Pennsylvania State Urban Search and Rescue Task Force, one of 27 federally sanctioned Federal Emergency Management Agency task forces in the country. "I knew we had two situations going on: one in New York, and one in Washington, D.C. I knew that our task force was the second geographically closest to each of those incidents."

As Gilkey was driving home from work, he got the official page. He called his wife again, told her he would be back in a few weeks, and went home to pick up his dog Bear, an 8-year-old chocolate Labrador Retriever.

At the same time, at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Cindy Otto, associate professor of critical care and board-certified specialist in emergency medicine and critical care, was anticipating the same official call. Roseann Keller, an operations manager and vice president for Salomon Smith Barney, State College, Pa., left work as well. At noon, she got her official call to get Logan, her 7-year-old German Shepherd Dog. The task force was being activated. She had a matter of hours to assemble and be at the Harrisburg International Airport.

The bigger picture here is that Gilkey, Keller, and Dr. Otto are part of an official FEMA team deployed after a presidential declaration that a site is in a national state of emergency. The team is made up of 62 people, consisting of search-and-rescue, medical, logistics, and technical components.

The entire team eventually met up at the Philadelphia Fire Academy. By 7 p.m. EST, the buses and nine tons of equipment had arrived. An hour later the team was en route to New York.

It was a long ride, as it wasn't until midnight, Sept. 12 that the team headed into Manhattan.

The PA Task Force-1 SAR Dogs and their handlers in front of the Merrill Lynch Building in NYC
Chris Selfridge & Riley; Bobbie Snyder & Willow; Dr. Cindy Otto; Roseann Keller & Logan; and John Gilkey & Bear

On that drive, Gilkey, a longtime volunteer EMT for his local fire department, learned that Battalion Chief Special Operations Command Raymond Downey, veteran firefighter and representative to all 27 FEMA task forces, had been lost in the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings. "He's our spokesperson. He was in charge at the Oklahoma City bombing incident," he said. "I thought to myself, 'Now it's personal.'"

Dr. Otto kept her thoughts on the work ahead of the team. "My big reaction was that I want to get out there and get working," she said. "I wanted the dogs to get in there, and I wanted to make sure that they were able to do their jobs."

Keller's mind was on the possible survivors at the scene. "I was thinking that we would have hundreds of survivors in that rubble," she said.

The group, in addition to seven other state and federal task forces, set up their base of operation at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, on 34th Street, a few miles north of ground zero. Their work began at 6:00 that evening.

Dr. Otto, Gilkey, and Keller were transported to ground zero in Army half-tracks, as the people of New York City lined the streets and cheered on the team. The 45-minute ride seemed surreal to Keller, and then she started to see the smoke.

"It looked like a scene out of a bad movie," Keller said.

"Reading my notes [about the scene] makes my skin crawl," Dr. Otto said.

"Just the magnitude of things was incredible," Gilkey said. "I remember I had tripped over a fireman's ladder ... and I realize what I'm standing on is a [crushed] fire truck ... so, there's like 12 feet of rubble underneath me. It was then that I realized how bad things really were."

As a FEMA medical support specialist, Dr. Otto was deployed specifically to care for the search-and-rescue dogs. She was deployed to North Carolina after Hurricane Floyd hit in 1999, and had predicted what care the dogs were going to need. "[In] Oklahoma [we had] cuts and scrapes, and eye irritation. In New York City, we had a much bigger problem with dehydration, and a lot of stress-related problems," she said. "The dogs were working 12-hour shifts for eight days in a row, which was an endurance event that they're not usually trained for."

As the dogs searched, the handlers needed to keep the hazardous environment in mind. The biggest hazards to the dogs were combinations of dust, smoke, asbestos, and unknown toxins they could have inhaled.

"In one of our briefings, they read off about two pages of hazardous materials that could have been [at the scene]," Keller said.

Bear takes a break from searching at ground zero to have some Kool-Aid, provided by handler John Gilkey.

The second hazard was the terrain. Gilkey said there was always a danger of slipping on the broken glass, the metal shards, and the twisted steel from the buildings.

The next hazard was voids, where dogs could have fallen and been trapped. "[One dog] fell down some hole and he ended up swimming in diesel fuel," Dr. Otto said.

And finally, there were hot spots. "There were places that they asked Logan to search where I saw steam coming out of the ground," Keller said.

In the searches, Gilkey and Keller were desperate to hear a continuous bark, the signal that their dogs had picked up the scent of a live person. They did a few times, only to find that Logan and Bear had found firefighters working in the voids, trying to recover victims. No victims were ever found by the Pennsylvania team. The dogs were desperate, too. If no live victims were discovered, Bear would not get his favorite Frisbee as a reward, and Logan her piece of garden hose. The handlers did their best, as they were trained, to keep the dogs' spirits up.

"My dog loves [people] clapping," Keller said. "As we would drive to and from the scene, the clapping and cheering people lined up on the streets made her so excited. She thought they were there to see her."

"Everyone has asked me if the dogs got depressed," Gilkey said. "The dog doesn't know. At best, [I can] equate that Bear would be frustrated because he wasn't getting his Frisbee."

At the end of the shifts, the handlers would decontaminate the dogs and give them a well-deserved meal. Their medical care, though crucial, was not for serious injuries. "A lot of the dogs did not have personal veterinary support like Dr. Otto," Gilkey said. "If there was anything we needed we went to Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams."

"I think Logan and Bear were lucky," Dr. Otto said. "My biggest job there was to try and prevent injuries ... I would monitor how long they were out there and get them back in. Once they were in, we could flush their eyes, we could check their feet, we were making sure they were getting some rest, and we were making sure they were drinking."

That Pennsylvania team stayed in New York City until Sept. 19, when a team from Texas relieved them. In retrospect, Gilkey and Keller, who spent years training and caring for the dogs that would be sent to the worst disaster the United States has seen, wished they could have done more. At the same time, they were so proud of their dogs.

"Now, Bear will retire as an advanced disaster dog because of his certification and his experience [in New York City]," Gilkey said. "He went seven days without serious injury, [alerting to] live and dead people, everything I trained him to do."

"When we left, I really hated to leave," Keller said, "because I felt like it wasn't done. They were sending in another team, and talking about sending us in for a second rotation, and I was glad about that."

At press time in early November, only a few New York City police dogs were searching ground zero and the scene at Staten Island, where the majority of the rubble and debris had been moved.


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Meet Golden Woody

Here in this FEMA photo by Michael Rieger, Rescue worker Terry Trepanier
and his Golden partner Woody of the Ohio Task Force Unit, are preparing to begin work at the site.

Best Friend Indeed: Woody's Work can be Lifesaver
By Cathy Mong, Dayton Daily News, October 1, 2001

Woody, like all dogs trained in search and rescue, is happiest when working. "Search!" a command spoken by his handler, sends the muscular, rust-colored Golden Retriever on a mission. Reporting any whiff of human life that enters his sensitive black nostrils becomes a feverish game.

If his quest is successful, Woody gets a "Good Boy!" and the chance to sink his teeth into his favorite toy, a footlong roll of stuffed canvas called a "bite chew." Praise and play. "It's what he lives for," said Terry Trepanier, a lieutenant with the Washington Twp. Fire Department and Woody's partner in the 72-member Ohio Task Force One.
Trepanier and Woody were among the state's four K-9 teams that spent 10 days at Ground Zero, in a hellish place unfit for man or beast. The canines' sense of smell, 40 times more acute than humans, reached overload. "It was overwhelming for the dogs," Trepanier, 47, said.
Woody, and the other Ohio dogs--Tascha, a Belgian Malinois; Enil, a German Shepherd; and Lucas, a Labrador Retriever--have extensive training through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. They, like their handlers, wear federal identification. The dogs search "naked" so their collars or tags don't become tangled in debris. "Nothing could have prepared us for what we saw," Trepanier said.
One difficult aspect of the search was the hope reflected in the eyes of New York firefighters at the sight of a K-9. They knew, Trepanier said, "if their brothers were to be found, it would be by these dogs."
Teams of searchers included dog and handler, a medical specialist, structural engineer, and rescue and technical search specialists. Outlying buildings were searched for fragments. "These dogs can hit on human teeth, human hair," Trepanier said. The stench of death was intense. "We carried jars of Vicks," he said, "and rubbed it inside our air masks."
Not once did Woody or the other dogs legitimately get to display an alert for "live-find" human scent. That disappointment affects a dog's mood, Trepanier said, and eventually depresses the dog's desire to work. Woody's spirits were lifted, at least once daily, by team members who hid in rubble and awaited the dog's boisterous, incessant bark of discovery, his excited pawing and his absolute glee when he received his pats and the end-all--his bite chew. "Even when we find a body or remains, we have to give the same reward," he said.
Woody never questioned Trepanier's order to search. Into crevices he belly-crawled. Onto I-beams he leapt, his agility training saving him from falls of 60 feet or more.
Woody was injured the first day. "Hey, Ohio, your doggie's bleeding," a firefighter called to Trepanier. Deep slits on Woody's back pads, sliced by sharp objects, were "super-glued" shut and the dog returned to work. When the veterinary team arrived at the compound a few days later, Woody's pads were stitched. "He worked right through the sutures," Trepanier said.
Woody was bred for this line of duty. Like certain makes of vehicles, Woody is referred to as "utility." High strung, the 2-year-old Retriever is 60 pounds of muscle, frenetic if not focused on a project. "He's always looking for something to do," Trepanier said. "He'd be too much for most people."
Airborne dust and irritants plagued the dogs, he said. "They got saline water shot up their nose, eyes and ears, and we were always cleaning their pads." At FEMA's command post in the Jacob Javitz Convention Center, K-9s had separate sleeping quarters, where they fell exhausted after 12-hour shifts. "He'd have searched until he dropped," Trepanier said. "It's his work ethic."
Trepanier, a 28-year veteran firefighter and paramedic, is a member of the Miami Valley Urban Search and Rescue Task Force, which evolved into the state and federal response team; and is president of the Southwestern Ohio Search and Rescue and Ohio Federation of K-9 Search Teams.
At home, Woody is joined by Sadie, a 6-year-old Golden Retriever also experienced in searches. They're part of the family, which includes Trepanier's wife, Debbie; and daughters Jessica, 16, and Tessa, who turned 10 while her father was in New York. Debbie Trepanier is a flight attendant with Delta Airlines, so Sept. 11's terrorist hijackings of commercial airplanes "were pretty hard for the girls to see," Trepanier said.
Ground Zero images, Trepanier said, have been deeply imprinted. "When we were working on the pile, through the ash and smoke, I kept thinking it was the souls of 6,000 people rising to the heavens."
There is no question in Trepanier's mind that dog is, indeed, a devoted friend to man. "To know what they've been through and to see how they performed makes you proud. And they never complain," he said. "They just wag their tails and say, 'Let's go.'"

Ohio Firefighter Recalls Experiences at 9/11 as Part of Ohio Task Force One
Handler and His Dog Spent 10 Days Supporting Ground Zero Efforts

By Pamela Ferris-Olson, Contributing Writer, Dayton Daily News (Ohio), September 9, 2006

WASHINGTON TWP., Montgomery County - Washington Twp. firefighter Lt. Terry Trepanier is no stranger to emergencies. They come with his job. This may explain why Trepanier can speak matter-of-factly about his search and rescue efforts at Ground Zero after the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001. "I really haven't thought a whole lot about it until the fiveyear anniversary hit the news," Trepanier said. "I think back then we were taken aback by the enormity and devastation while we were there. Now, reflecting back on it, I see the good things, the human nature and how we were treated when we came back to Ohio."

Trepanier and his 7-year-old, male golden retriever Woody are part of the FEMA Ohio Task Force One search and rescue team. The handler and his dog were dispatched to New York City on Sept. 11 and spent 10 days on search and rescue support. It's the small things that seem to have affected Trepanier the most in regard to Sept. 11 - such as his daughter, Tessa, turning 10 on Sept. 17, 2001.

"It was really hard for her and her sister. They had to see me go off that day and endure me being there. And my wife was a flight attendant and they had to deal with that, too," Trepanier said.

Tessa is a freshman at Bellbrook High School. Her sister, Jessie, 21, is a student at Sinclair Community College. Something else that affected him was a nameless young girl who thanked Trepanier for trying to help find her father amid the destruction.

Trepanier, a member of the honor guard who stood at Ground Zero during the first anniversary of Sept. 11, was present when family members of the victims visited the site. Even after four years, Trepanier was overcome with emotion by this remembrance. "It really made you aware of the loss they had. It really brought it home," Trepanier said.

The firefighter also recalled light-hearted moments. "I'll never forget one member of our team who, during a rest period, asked, 'Can't you put that dog on Ritalin?' " Trepanier said. Woody, in Trepanier's words, was bouncing off the walls. Energy is an asset in search and rescue dogs.


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Meet Golden Thunder

These FEMA News Photos by Andrea Booher show a Golden Urban Search & Rescue team in action. Well, a guy's gotta rest! I am sure that Golden Thunder worked awful hard before getting this well deserved break from the operations.


Through Concrete
Associated Press, September 25, 2001

At the World Trade Center, the dogs work in teams in different sectors of the rubble. Structural engineers investigate areas to determine whether they can safely be explored. Hazardous-materials specialists, known as "Hazmat," look for pockets of jet fuel, diesel fuel, Freon and toner -- to name a few. Then come the hounds. When they find remains, some will bark. Others are trained to lie down. Rescue specialists move in to seek out what the dogs have located.
To counter the cut pads, exposure to chemicals and dehydration, the public health service has deployed the Veterinary Assistance Medical Team, or VMAT. Working 12-hour shifts, those men and women and volunteer veterinarians staff a medical station in the middle of West Street, near Chambers Street, a few blocks north of the Trade Center ruins.
A 50-foot tent has a table of syringes, stations for ear cleaning and eye cleaning, cabinets of gauze and bandages, bags of intravenous solutions hanging from posts, Musher's Secret paw protection and enough toys, bones and biscuits to stock a pet shop. A sign hanging inside reads, "Emergency Horns. 1 Horn=Silence. 3 Blasts=Evacuate."
Last Saturday night was quiet. As vets changed shifts at 11 p.m., no dog showed up for hours. Then Cara, a two-year-old Beauceron herding dog, arrived. She had just tunneled through a 40-foot space with a camera strapped to her. Her handler wanted her nails filed and salve for her eyes. Vets checked her and found her to be slightly dehydrated and recommended that she get fluids when she got off her shift. She returned to "the pile" in a small vehicle 10 minutes later.
For the next three hours, only volunteers pushing shopping carts strolled by, offering up food, flags and Dr. Scholl's shoe inserts. Every few minutes, huge twisted beams glided by on flatbed trucks. A few minutes after 2 a.m., an ambulance with a massive police escort including motorcycles headed north with the remains of a police officer. Two more elaborate escorts made the same trip, one at 3:25 a.m. and another three hours and 10 minutes later.
At 5:01, the next patient rolled in -- a German Shepherd working as a patrol dog for the New York City Police Department. Dwyer, his ears pointing behind him, was suffering from diarrhea and was still skittish from being nipped on the rump by another dog. Mitch Biederman, a volunteer vet, said Dwyer suffered from stress colitis. Another vet gave him a physical and dispensed an antibiotic.
At 6 o'clock, a shift change took place, and with the Con Edison and Verizon telephone workers streaming northward, the dogs arrived. First was Kinsey, a black Labrador retriever who wagged her body more than her tail. The vet took her temperature and cleaned her up. She grabbed a braided chew toy as her handler noted that there is the scent of decaying flesh "everywhere. It's overwhelming."
Cholo, a German Shepherd, came in next. Like most of the specialty dogs, he is part of an urban search-and-rescue crew, this one from Texas. But he searches for survivors, not cadavers. And he didn't find anybody on his shift, said Bert Withers, the search manager. To avoid depressing the dogs after a disappointing day, some handlers will hide and let their dogs find them. The only thing upsetting Cholo now was the shower he was about to get -- from a hose and bucket hooked up to a makeshift tripod. From the look in his eyes, a bath was a betrayal.

Last on the scene was Thunder, a six-year-old Golden Retriever who is part of the Puget Sound, Wash., Urban Search and Rescue. Thunder, too, got a medical exam. He has been tunneling in through the rubble. "He's stressed out that he can't be on the pile more," says his handler, Kent Olson.
After a bath rid him of the dust and grease on his head, Thunder headed for the rest area uptown, while Porkchop, in his orange booties, headed for the pile. The fur on their hocks swayed behind them as they trotted away. A vet shook her head and said, "Such good dogs."  This FEMA News photo of Thunder was taken by Andrea Booher.


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Meet Goldens Ana, Dusty & HarleyPacking up and getting ready to go on Sept 11th!
Here is a diary of some of Sacramento's FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 7's recent journey. They left on September 11th, 2001 to help with the disaster at the World Trade Center in New York City. And after ten long and hard days of searching for survivors in the rubble, this weary group of rescue workers returned home. By the time the team reached the Sacramento city limits, the overpasses were packed with patriotic residents proudly waiving flags. Task Force 7 was given a hero's welcome as they stepped off of the plane at Travis Air Force Base — a line of officers waiting to welcome them home. It was very tough, though, as they returned having uncovered no survivors.  

Tuesday, September 11, 2001
Sacramento's Urban Search and Rescue Task Force7, a grouCaptain Randy Gross and Dustyp who previously had responded to the Oklahoma City disaster, was called upon on Tuesday morning to deploy to New York City. And, fifty-nine men, three woman and four dogs (three Goldens: Ana, Dusty & Harley and one black Lab: Abby) were given just six hours to prepare!

Firefighters from the Sacramento Metro Fire Captain Randy Gross and Golden DustyDistrict, the Sacramento Fire Department, the West Sacramento Fire Department and the El Dorado County Fire Protection District were all represented. They were accompanied by emergency room doctors, structural engineers, police & fire chaplains, and trained dog handlers. An airlift of 42,000 pounds of equipment and supplies had to take place before they could leave.

The team was given a police escort from the California Highway Patrol and the Sacramento Police, so clearing traffic for a speedy response to Travis Air Force Base. And, amazingly, Task Force 7 departed on schedule at 1830 hours (8:30 pm). Four Air Force F-15 fighters escorted the Galaxy C-5 transport airplane across most of the United States. The aircraft was carrying a huge reserve of supplies as well as very sophisticated search and rescue equipment. And, there were nearly three hundred units of donated blood to be used for the victims of the disaster on the East Coast.

The team arrived safely on schedule at a staging area on the East Coast.


Wednesday, September 12, 2001

The team rested for a few hours in base housing and then received a morning briefing from a FEMA Incident Support Team. Along with Sacramento Taskforce 7, Urban Search and Rescue teams from Missouri, Riverside, California, and Los Angeles, California arrived throughout the night. The team spent the day getting their rescue equipment ready and setting up a Base of Operations.


Thursday, September 13, 2001

Today the team split into two 31 person teams and started 24-hour operations in the area of Barclay & West Broadway at the World Trade Center Tishman Center. This was the 47-story building which collapsed shortly after the World Trade Center collapsed. The start of operations required transporting the rescue equipment to a forward staging area near the site. The search dogs conducted searches of the building and surrounding buildings. But, sadly, no victims were located. The remainder of the team assisted the Structure Specialist in assessing building stability and locating voids in the collapsed buildings. 

The team indicated that the destruction was spread over 100 square blocks from Ground Zero, with debris piled 11-stories high. Due to unstable buildings, there were concerns of being able to gain access.



Friday, September 14, 2001
The team was assigned to divisions within the New York City Operational Area as part of a coordinated effort to add to the local resources. They were doing well and conducting sub-grade searching through debris and mountains of rubble. The surface search with the search dogs was progressing well. And, wGoldens Dusty and Ana getting some presidential attentionhile the dogs were getting excited, no actual hits were made. The facilities at the site were limited, but the team was in good spirits.

This is a special FEMA News photograph that was taken by Andrea Booher. Here President Bush was taking time to meet the Urban Search & Rescue Teams who were working the World Trade Center site.

I am sure that the members of Sacramento's Task Force 7, who are shown here, were quite honored (well maybe not our Golden workers who just welcomed President Bush's attention as that of another friendly encounter).

You can tell the President is definitely a 'dog' person by the way he is giving them tickles around the ears and chin, just where our buddies like it most.

Monday, September 17, 2001
The Sacramento team continued to work alongside and in support of New York fire and police personnel. Specifically, they worked with seventy to eighty members of NYPD's Emergency Services Unit on search and support operations. Minor injuries, aches, and pains were noted due to workers walking on uneven debris fields.

Wednesday, September 19, 2001

Golden Dusty and his working partner, Sacramento Metro Fire Captain Randy Gross got to ring the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange. This was a nice break from all of the hard work.

Special thanks go to National Disaster Search Dog Foundation President/CEO Wilma Melville, the Sacramento City Fire Department and Foundation Volunteer Liz Harward for their support and permission to reprint the glorious Golden photos shown above. Individual photographers include Captain Rick Lee, Captain Kristi Sergeant, and Tom Parker.



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Meet Golden Jagger
Hometown hero nominated for G.R.A.C.E. Award
Hoboken Recorder, July 20, 2002

Most people probably aren't familiar with the awards established to honor special Golden Retrievers nationwide. Although it may seem like a silly idea, winning a G.R.A.C.E. award means a lot to any rescued Golden Retriever; it means he was lucky enough to get a second chance at life, spirited enough to do something with it.

Golden Rescue And Community Excellence (G.R.A.C.E.) Awards were created in honor of an Arizona rescue dog named "Grace" who maintained her dignity and sweet disposition despite years of abuse, neglect, and eventually abandonment. The purpose of the G.R.A.C.E. Awards is to recognize rescued Goldens all over the nation who have accomplished something significant and exceptional, overcoming the odds of being an abandoned or unwanted animal. All nominees have been rescued and given a second chance at a useful and happy life.

Hoboken is lucky enough to have a local named Jagger nominated this year. His story is a happy one that shows how small organizations are able to do so much locally to help the community by helping animals.

Anyone who has been to a Rolling Stones concert has seen Mick Jagger's thin, lanky body literally bounding across the stage. Imagine the same raw energy in a nine month old, untrained, unsocialized male Golden Retriever puppy. Here in Hoboken is where the story of Jagger the Golden Retriever begins.

In April 2000, one of our volunteers of a local organization called Golden Re-Triever Rescue of New Jersey (GRRI-NJ) heard about a man walking down the streets asking everyone he met if he or she wanted a Golden Retriever or knew someone who might. The volunteer was soon able to locate this dog owner and offer him the services of GRRI-NJ. As no one up to this point had seemed interested in the puppy, the owner was prepared to take the unfortunate puppy to a shelter the very next day - a shelter that was not a happy place to be due to overcrowding and abysmal adoption rates.

The volunteer immediately set up an appointment to go to the dog owner's home to complete an intake evaluation. In her report to GRRI, she wrote "I have NEVER met a more out of control dog than Jagger. It was like he was spring loaded, and the least bit of anything -- attention, food, any distraction -- would set him off BIG TIME."

Transporting Jagger out of Hoboken the next morning proved to be a nightmare for his rescuers. He panted and paced non-stop int he back seat for the next hour as he was driven to board and train facility where he would remain until an Adoption Coordinator could figure out where he might be placed.

Despite Jagger's hyperactive nature, he had a friendly nature and deserved a chance. The volunteers at GRRI-NJ knew that rescue was his only hope.

As sheer luck, or divine intervention, one of the training officers from the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) K-9 unit soon called the GRRI hotline inquiring about the availability of a high energy young dog that they could train to be an explosives sniffing dog. They were looking for a male or female, between the ages of one and two years. While Jagger was only nine months old, the volunteers knew they couldn't let this opportunity pass; Jagger was perfect for the job, and had few other options for placement.

After hearig a lot of fast talking and some pleading, the PAPD decided to meet Jagger. They soon agreed to take him under the condition that the dog could be returned if he didn't perform to their high expectations. While the idea of a returned animal is not one volunteers like to consider, it was a chance they decided to take for Jagger's sake.

As PAPD training classes didn't start for two weeks, Police Officer Richie Colon, Jagger's new partner, took his feisty new dog home. It was a rough two weeks in the Colon household as they tried to keep Jagger from literally destroying the place, but this small sacrifice soon paid off.

Throughout the twelve-week class, Jagger was introduced, or imprinted with over 14 different odors, ranging from gunpowder to dynamite to any substance used to make explosives. He was taught to search over, under, in and around vehicles, buildings, parcels, and trees. He searched warehouses, rode on subways, planes, trains and automobiles. Jagger's instructors had never seen anything like him; he was a natural. He would immediately drop into a "sit and point" the moment he caught the scent. There was no fooling him. Jagger was on the brink of his new career in law enforcement. He was officially adopted on May 30, 2000.

It was a very proud day when the GRRI_NJ volunteers attended Jagger's graduation from training school. He was now an explosives detection dog, certified by the United States Police Canine Association (USPCA) and was an official, badge-carrying police dog! GRRI presented Jagger with a bag of all-natural dog bisquits, and his partner Richie with a Golden Re-Triever Rescue T-shirt. The new crime-fighting team in turn presented GRRI with an appreciation plaque from the PAPD.

Jagger and Richie were assigned to patrol the World Trade Center complex across the river in lower Manhattan. Every morning they would start their routine, patrolling each and every level of all sever WTC buildings, investigating all trucks and vans entering the garage and sniffing every parked car in the perimeter of the complex. Then they would move outside and do their "high profie" walk - sniffing the grounds outside. They became a very well known sight as they made their rounds, man and dog, each wearing their badge and doing the job they loved.

Thankfully, Richie and Jagger were off-duty on September 11, 2001. However, his classmate, Sirius, a young yellow lab, was not as fortunate, and was the only canine service dog killed in the line of duty.

Although the towers were gone, Richie and Jagger's job wasn't. New threats were coming in daily. Tunnels and bridges were closed; the city was in lockdown. Rich and Jagger were re-assigned to Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. Their job was to search every plane that was cleared for take-off as the airport was closed down. Eventually they were moved to tunnel-duty, conducting searches that alternated between the Lincoln and Holland tunnels. These partners still do daily checks of trucks and vans bound to Manhattan from NJ.

This however, isn't Jagger's only important job; he's also the VIP greeter at both LaGuardia and Kennedy Airports. This means that every time a visiting dignitary comes to New York City, Jagger and Rich are there prior to the visit, ensuring everything is safe. They search the landing strips, the airport complex and the waiting limousines. Jagger has even met the President of Zambia and the Consul from South Korea.

The working team of Port Authority Police Officer Rich Colone and his wonderful Golden Re-Triever Rescue-New Jersey Bomb Sniffing Golden, Jagger, were recently stationed at the World Trade Center. They are currently both doing fine and have been redeployed to Teterboro Airport. 

Whenever President Bush visits the area, it's our own Jagger who searches the lead cars associated with the car pool, secures the tarmac, the airport terminal and the exits. Nothing is left un-sniffed by this hometown hero.

Quite often this PAPD-duo partner with other police agencies to investigate bomb threats at municipal buildings and area high schools. Recently they searched the Jersey City Department of Motor Vehicles building and five high schools.

As if keeping the citizens of New York and New Jersey safe were not enough, Rich and Jagger also assume the responsibility of teaching the public about what they do. They frequently visit local elementary schools, demonstrating Jagger's amazing sniffing capabilities to the delight of local youngsters.

If this story sound familiar, you might have heard of Jagger when he and Officer Colon were featured in reports on several area news stations. If you have never heard of Jagger before today, you still have your chance to catch the duo in action. On September 11, 2002 the first anniversary of the terrorist attack, the television network A&E will feature a two-hour exclusive broadcast on the aftermath of the WTC attack and Port Authority security. Officer Colon and Jagger will be shown searching trucks at the George Washington Bridge crossing between New Jersey and New York.

It's amazing that Jagger's life took such a dramatic turn - from a life of neglect in the shadow of the New York City skyline to that of police dog assuming a critical role at the tallest buildings in New York. GRRI-NJ has many reasons to be proud of Jagger's success and hopes that Hoboken will cheer him on to victory at the G.R.A.C.E. awards.

Jagger and his partner risk their lives everyday to keep us safe - something especially appreciated in the aftermath of the horrific events last September. For his dedication, loyalty and commitment to the job, Golden Re-Triever Rescue of New Jersey felt obligated to nominate Jagger for the 2002 G.R.A.C.E. Award in the area of Law Enforcement. 


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