In September 2001, amid the twisted pile of steel beams, concrete and ash where the World Trade Center once stood, 300 or so search dogs worked long hours and used their powerful noses to try to find survivors.
The last seach dog of 9/11 Ground Zero was Bretagne (pronounced “Brittany”), a whip-smart golden retriever with feathery fur and a sunny smile, lived an adventure-packed life until the very end. She had died at age 16 (2016) with her longtime handler and best friend by her side after experiencing kidney failure and slowing down failed to enjoy her favorite food for three consecutive days.
Bretagne retired from formal search work at age 9, but she never lost her love of adventure or her work ethic. Her retirement years turned out to be almost as epic as her younger years, in large part because Corliss realized Bretagne needed tailor-made physical and mental stimulation as she aged.
At age 13, Bretagne began experiencing so much stiffness and joint pain that she could no longer climb the stairs in her home. Corliss installed an above-ground pool in her backyard and helped Bretagne to swim in it for at least 10 minutes a day.
Bretagne made national news at age 15 when she returned to Ground Zero with Corliss for the first time since the 2001 terrorist attacks. NBC News’ Tom Brokaw interviewed Corliss at the 9/11 Memorial and also spent time with Bretagne, who was a 2014 finalist for the American Humane Association’s annual Hero Dog Awards.
Bretagne generated even more headlines when she turned 16. In honor of Bretagne’s birthday in August 2015, BarkPost coordinated an epic “Sweet 16” bash in New York City that included an illuminated billboard in Times Square and the dedication of a cobblestone in her honor on the plaza of the 9/11 Memorial.
In late 2015, Bretagne became a star of a non-fiction book about senior dogs and met with former President George H.W. Bush at the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas.
Bretagne’s life story is featured in the bestselling book “My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts” by TODAY writer Laura T. Coffey. Bretagne’s chapter includes comments from NBC News’ Tom Brokaw and exclusive photographs of Bretagne at the 9/11 Memorial taken by Lori Fusaro.
Here’s a look back at other 9/11 Ground Zero search dogs who lived exceptionally long lives.