Thursday, June 9, 2016

Requiem for a Heavyweight

Earlier this week, Bretagne (pronounced "Brittany"), a sixteen-year-old golden retriever, died in Cypress, Texas.  It was with a heavy heart that Bretagne's owners, Denise Corliss and her husband Randy, took their beloved companion to a vet's office that morning to have her put down.  Bretagne's kidneys had failed her and she was no longer able to eat.  Anyone who has ever had to do what Denise and Randy Corliss had to do on Monday morning knows the anguish they experienced in arriving at that decision, which they made - as many of us have done - to do what was best for the dog they loved with all of their hearts even if making that decision caused their hearts to break more than just a little bit.    

Bretagne's death was mourned by people across these United States, which might strike you as extraordinary.  It should.  For Bretagne was an extraordinary dog.  She was just two years old when she accompanied Denise Corliss on Bretagne's first visit to New York City.  She made it as a canine member of the Texas Task Force 1 Rescue Team that arrived in Lower Manhattan in early September, 2001 to take part in what initially had been a rescue mission at Ground Zero.  Not terribly long after they arrived, Denise and Bretagne realized that theirs was not going to be a mission of rescue but, rather, a mission of recovery.  Working twelve-hour shifts, Denise and Bretagne combed the twisted ruins of Ground Zero.  It was dangerous work.  Bretagne never faltered.  

Following her heroism in New York in 2001, Bretagne continued to work with Denise at Texas Task Force 1.  The pair participated in rescue and recovery missions following Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita.  In 2008, at age nine, Bretagne retired.  

In retirement, however, she stayed busy, working closer to home, at community events and in local elementary schools.  She was a working dog, after all.  It is not to say that in retirement her life was all work and no play.  Last summer, she made another trip to New York City, accompanied by Denise and Randy, during which a city that considers itself forever indebted to her for her valor, feted her. 

Bretagne is believed to have been the last-surviving search dog of the three hundred or so dogs who - in that terrible September fifteen years ago - worked bravely and tirelessly alongside their human partners at Ground Zero.  She died slightly less than three months shy of her seventeenth birthday.  

One hell of a life.  

One hell of a legacy.  


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