Heroes come in many forms, and so do heroes’ farewells.
The news carries a photo of an aging Golden Retriever named Bretagne (pronounced “Brittany”), believed to be the last surviving 9/11 Ground Zero search dog. (See story at http://austin.blog.statesman.com/2016/06/07/watch-last-living-911-search-dog-saluted-while-walking-into-texas-vet-office-for-the-last-time/.)
The story announced that Bretagne was euthanized June 6. The veteran search dog was 16 years old. Old age had slowed her down, and at least one news source indicated chronic kidney issues had troubled her.
To honor the canine, firefighters at the Cy-Fair Fire Department in Harris County, Texas, lined the walkway up to Fairfield Animal Hospital as her owner, Denise Corliss, walked her inside to be put to sleep.
Many of those rescue workers had tears streaming down their faces as Bretagne’s body, draped in an American flag, was carried out.
Corliss and Bretagne joined hundreds of teams from around the world to help search for survivors in 2001 at the site of the World Trade Center attacks. Bretagne was just a young pup at the time, a fresh graduate of disaster training.
Trainer and dog worked 12 hours a day searching for survivors at the scene for two weeks — only to find none.
News accounts shared Corliss’ story that rescuers and firefighters would come over and pet the dog and soon begin sharing their personal stories with the owner, describing missing friends, loved ones and colleagues for whom they were searching. Bretagne became a therapy dog there.
The dog’s service included deployments in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and other storms through the years.
Heroes can be people, animals, companies and churches intent on helping others in their need. This account is a good reminder to give bona fide heroes their due.
The best heroes do not seek “hero sainthood,” they just do what they are training to do in most cases and whatever they can do to meet a need in others.
Most of us would do well to become hero material, that is willing and able to be responsive when our assistance is needed, whether in life-saving situations are something less dramatic, whether recognition comes or not.
Quite often, such efforts will not escape attention.
Bill Webb is editor of Word & Way.