Bretagne is a 15-year-old Golden Retriever that is the last known dog still alive after serving at Ground Zero on 9/11. Her owner, Denise Corliss, deployed with Bretagne to numerous disaster sites, including Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Ivan. On their first assignment, Bretagne persevered through nearly two weeks of 12-hour shifts at Ground Zero.
On one occasion during the search, Bretagne left Corliss’ side and hurried toward a sullen firefighter sitting on the ground. Concerned, Corliss implored Bretagne to come back, sit and stay — to no avail.
“I was surprised that she wasn’t listening to me, but she really wasn’t — it was like she was flipping me the paw,” Corliss told TODAY. “She went right to that firefighter and laid down next to him and put her head on his lap.”
Bretagne retired from formal search work at age 9 — but today, even though she’s roughly 93 in human years, she still is a working girl. When school’s in session, she dons a service vest and prances through a local elementary school, where she helps first-graders and children with special needs learn how to read aloud.
“She still has this attitude of putting her paw up and saying, ‘Put me in, coach!’” Corliss said. “She absolutely loves it.”
And just as she did for that firefighter and other rescue workers at Ground Zero, she tends to sense which students and teachers are having rough days.
“I’ve seen Bretagne almost select a child,” Shelley Swedlaw, a search dog handler and a former special education director who accompanies Bretagne to reading sessions, told TODAY. “She’s just really good about knowing who needs that kind, canine attention.”
This year, Bretagne is one of eight finalists for the American Humane Association’s annual Hero Dog Awards. Corliss is preparing to travel with Bretagne to Beverly Hills for a stroll down the red carpet on the night of the award ceremony in late September.
(Photo/Story via TODAY)