By Nick Norris

When those sweltering clouds of smoke and debris erupted from the New York skyline on that bright September morning, roughly 10,000 first responders rushed to the collapsing World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. Though most of the heroes who put their lives on the line that day were men and women, more than 300 of those responders were dogs.

Even after 18 years, the lasting scars of the September 11, 2001 attacks are still fresh in the minds of many Americans. Those who witnessed still remember the overwhelming fear, the inconceivable shock. The innocent victims inside did all they could to scramble out of the weakening buildings while other brave souls charged in to help. Among those doing their part was Bretagne, a two-year-old Golden Retriever.

Bretagne began training as a search and rescue dog at just eight weeks old. Up until this moment, she never had a real assignment. This would be her first. For 10 days, Bretagne dug through the rubble at Ground Zero, searching tirelessly for survivors. Her efforts gained the attention of The Today Show, where she appeared on television with Tom Brokaw.

At 9 years old, Bretagne retired from formal search work. During her service, the Golden Retriever put together an unforgettable career which included searching for survivors in Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita, and Hurricane Ivan.

Denise Corliss, Bretagne’s long-time trainer and owner, was alongside her k9 the entire ride. Corliss often took time off work to serve as a responder. Since she is a volunteer, Corliss does not receive pay for her numerous hours of service.

In 2016, Bretagne was put to rest as she was suffering from kidney failure. She was the last surviving search dog who worked at Ground Zero. In the time since, a bronze life-size statue of Bretagne has been erected in Cypress, Texas, where she spent her life.

As Americans take time today to remember those lost and those who selflessly laid down their own lives to save others just 18 years ago, it is important to also remember the little furry heroes who played a large role in saving and comforting survivors.

To the many heroes of September 11, 2001, from all of us at Xtreme Concepts Inc. and iK9, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

We have not forgotten.