According to the American Foundation for the Blind, about 25 million adults across the country experience vision loss. But only 10,000 guide dogs are in use in the U.S. andCanada. Roselle, American Humane Association’s Winner of the Hero Dog Awards, was one of those dogs, and went above and beyond assisting her blind owner Michael Hingson during the 9/11 tragedy. When Hingson was trapped in the North Tower of the World Trade Center, Roselle helped lead him down 1,463 stairs to safety. Roselle sadly passed away, but the legacy of this hero dog lives on. Hingson, who now lives in Novato, California, talked to us about his life-saving dog, who also had a bit of a mischievous streak.
Animal Fair: How did you become Roselle’s parent?
Michael Hingson: I got Roselle from Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, California in November 1999. Right from the start, we made a good team. When she first walked into the room where I waited for her, she didn’t take much notice of me. She was too busy investigating the room. But when I called her, she perked right up and came over. She put her head in my lap, wagged her tail, and waited as if to say, “Okay, I guess fun time is over. I don’t know who you are, but you seem nice.”
Animal Fair: How did she become such a hero?
Michael Hingson: It’s all about teamwork. Even so, her focused and dedicated personality had a lot to do with it. We learned to read each other. On 9/11, all our work and time together paid off when we had to work together to get ourselves and others out of the North Tower in the World Trade Center. Later, we had to run as the South Tower was falling less than 100 yards away. Roselle focused and truly saved my life as we ran from the collapsing tower. She is a true hero in every sense of the word.
After 9/11, our story was all over the media. We went to work for Guide Dogs for the Blind in 2002 to help raise money for the organization. Over the six and a half years we worked there, we raised directly several hundred thousand dollars for the organization. When the economic recession hit in the spring of 2002, the head of development of Guide Dogs for the Blind thought our donations would fall, but they didn’t. It was due in large part to Roselle’s and my story, and especially to Roselle’s heroism.
Animal Fair: Can you tell us a little about your charity?
Michael Hingson: My charity is Guide Dogs for the Blind. Guide Dogs for the Blind is the largest guide dog training school in the United States. It provides free of charge guide dogs to blind persons in the United States and Canada.
Animal Fair: What is your hope for Roselle’s legacy?
Michael Hingson: With the writing of Roselle’s and my story in our book, Thunder Dog, and with the winning of the Hero Dog Award, we hope to further the education about blindness we began after 9/11. Also, I hope to continue to inspire people as I speak around the world. Roselle is a tremendous example of how dogs can fit into our lives and become significant parts of our families.
Animal Fair: If your dog was a celebrity, who would she be?
Michael Hingson: Ever since I met Roselle, I always said she was a pixie in disguise. So, as far as celebrity is concerned, I would say she would have been Tinkerbell. She worked when she needed to, but she had a mischievous personality which came out when she was out of harness. Roselle was famous for taking pairs of socks and hiding them. She never damaged them. The hiding and then watching me try to find them was the game.
If you are interested in supporting Guide Dogs for the Blind, contact Joanne Ritter at 415-499-4017 or visit their website, guidedogs.com!