Immediately following the attacks of 9/11, nearly 100 trained search dogs and their handlers were deployed by FEMA to assist in the rescue efforts at the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
Inspired by the tenth anniversary of 9/11 last September, Dutch photographer Charlotte Dumas tracked down 15 of the surviving rescue dogs who assisted emergency crews searching for survivors.
"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." Charlotte Dumas
Composed at close range in natural light, Dumas’ powerful portraits—reproduced here in her book Retrieved—offer an intimate view into the everyday lives of these highly specialized working animals, now sharing the vulnerability of old age as they once pursued a common heroic goal.
SCOUT, age 14, McCordsville IN.
Scout was activated on the morning of the 11th. Together with Blake Wallis, Scout was deployed to the World Trade Center the same afternoon. Their last shift was on Wednesday the 19th.
Charlotte traveled around the country traveling across nine states in the U.S. from Texas to Maryland and photographed these aging heroes in their homes. These noble and vulnerable images are a beautiful tribute to the efforts of all the search and rescue teams in those frightening and challenging days.
Moxie arrived at the World Trade Center site on Sept. 11 and began working the next morning. Though she is trained to find survivors, she identified six bodies and many body parts during the eight days she worked there. Since her owner retired her at age 7, she has hunted and spent time on the waterfront.
Merlyn, age 14, Otis CO.
Merlyn was deployed with handler Matt Claussen and worked the night shift searching the rubble of the World Trade Center for five days starting on September 24.
Orion, age 13, Vacaville, Calif.
He worked at the World Trade Center for five days after the attacks and later participated in searches for missing hikers in the High Sierras, at elevations of as much as 12,000 feet. Orion’s owner says that the dog ‘‘loved the work. His purpose in living was doing search and rescue work.’’
Red, age 11, Annapolis, Md.
Trained as a ‘‘live find’’ dog as well as a ‘‘cadaver’’ dog. Red was driven by her owner to the Pentagon after the attacks, and she worked for 11 days, finding remains for DNA identification in the north parking-lot area. She retired in July. Her owner says, ‘‘Red wants to work, but her body just can’t do it anymore.’’
Guinness, age 14, Highland, Calif.
He worked at the World Trade Center site for 10 days. In the wake of Katrina and other catastrophic hurricanes, he searched for survivors in areas where the water receded. Guinness’s owner says, ‘‘We keep the training fun for the dogs; it’s like a game for them.’’
She went to the Pentagon following the attacks of 9/11. Later in her career, she was active in wilderness searches in her home state. Her owner says: ‘‘Even today, if I say we’re going to search, she’ll get all excited. She still perks up.’’
She arrived at the World Trade Center site at about 1 a.m. the day after the attacks. At that time, her owner says, ‘‘there was a lot of hope that people would be found alive.’’ Over her nine-year career, she located the victim of a crane collapse and participated in wilderness searches. She died earlier this year.
She worked at ground zero for 10 days; it was her first deployment. Subsequently, her seven years of active duty included searching for survivors in areas affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Here is a picture of Bretagne taking a nap while working at 9/11 site.
After tirelessly braving crushed glass and smoldering debris while searching for survivors all day, these fearless dogs were given nightly decontamination baths in which their eyes, ears and mouths were washed out and their paws gently cleaned.