Today is the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, we remember and celebrate the lives of the innocent victims who were lost on that tragic day. It is also a time to remember the brave men and women who saved countless civilians. While our firefighters and police officers became real-life superheroes on that day, we must not forget the four-legged heroes who played a big part. The search and rescue dogs, or SAR dogs, were in charge of finding any lost or trapped victims, as well as recovering any bodies from the disaster. Man’s best friend certainly lived up to that title as over three-hundred dogs of all breeds arrived from all over the country to help their human friends.
Among the first responders were the Veterinary Medical Assistance Team (VMAT) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Search and Rescue Dogs. A lesser-known ally that worked side by side with the furry rescuers was the Suffolk County SPCA (SCSPCA). The Long Island based group went straight into the disaster site, helping the SAR dogs find missing and trapped people. This independent all-volunteer group also spent eight straight weeks searching for and treating any pets that may have been hurt and lost in the attacks, along with reuniting them with their human parents. Some services provided by the SCSPCA were water and food, booties to protect paws and medications for burning and itching eyes from the smoke and debris.
The heroic pooches also provided therapy and emotional support to many of the victims and the heroes who saved them. Dog Bless You, an organization run by philanthropist Charlie Annenberg, aims to pair therapy dogs with traumatized victims of disasters such as the September 11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina, as well as soldiers returning home from war. Dog Bless You is partnered with the SPCA and the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation in hopes of healing the emotional scars left on both humans and pooches.
It is very difficult to prevent a large scale disaster, but very easy to be prepared. Animalfair.com has provided a few tips to help pet parents protect their pets in a dangerous situation.
- It is very important for your pet to always wear his or her collar with proper identification. This is similar to a human always having their driver’s license with them. Pet parents can also have a tiny microchip implanted in their pet to help locate them in case they are separated. These precautions can ensure a happy reunion if you are separated from your furry friend!
- If a disaster leaves you and your pet trapped indoors, always make sure there is an emergency supply of your pet’s favorite food on “paw”. Just as important is a strong water supply. Always have many bottles of fresh water available, as running water may not work in your home.
- You may not be able to get in touch with your doggie-doctor, so if your four-legged pal takes any medication, make sure you have enough to last at least a week.
- If you must leave your home, it is helpful to have a pet carrier available, but make sure it is one that your dog or cat is used to and will enter voluntarily. To ensure that your pet does not make a break for it, use a carrier that can be locked and is inescapable.
- Bring some of your pet’s favorite belongings, such as blankets, toys and treats. Chances are, your pet will be frightened or confused, so it is a good idea to bring familiar things that will keep Fido or Fluffy at ease.
- Always have a pet “uncle” or “aunt” that you can leave your pet with in case of an emergency. It should be someone with whom you and your pet are close and trust.
- Practice makes perfect. Having a well thought out escape plan can save your life and your pet’s life. Every once in a while, try some evacuation exercises with your family and pooch or feline. This can help make an evacuation much more organized and calm for all involved.
- In any emergency situation, people, as well as pets, will be frightened. Comfort your pet by remaining calm and speaking in a reassuring and soothing tone. Also pay attention to body language such as shaking and clinginess.
Every 9/11 uncertainty and fears rise as many wonder if another attack is possible. Our security forces are not taking any chances and making sure that all people – and pets – are protected. That means many bomb sniffing dogs and police dogs are ready to get their paws dirty in order to keep their fellow pets and human friends safe. Also prepared will be the animal rescue groups, such as the SCSPCA, who will no doubt be ready to deploy their medical and rescue unit at first call, just as they courageously did on that fateful day ten years ago. For more information regarding donations and getting involved, please visit www.suffolkspca.org, www.avma.org, www.searchdogfoundation.org, www.explore.org and www.fema.gov.