More than 300 people and dozens of service dogs attended an April 24 memorial service for Sirius, a Port Authority police dog who was killed in the attack on the World Trade Center, Sept. 11. The service was held at the Liberty State Park in New Jersey.
Officer David Lim, artist Debbie Stonebreaker, and volunteer firefighter Cody Stonebraker pose with a portrait of Sirius that Ms. Stonebreaker presented to Officer Lim at the memorial.
Sirius, a 5-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever, was an explosives detection dog who was stationed at the trade center the day of the attack with his partner, Officer David Lim.
After the first plane hit the trade center, Lim placed Sirius in a kennel beneath the building and then rushed to help evacuate the building. Lim was in Tower One when it collapsed, and he was trapped in the rubble for several hours before he was rescued. Sirius died in the collapse, and his body was recovered four months later. His remains were draped with an American flag and saluted in the same manner as those of police officers and firefighters.
Sirius was the only dog to be killed during the attacks or during the recovery efforts following the attacks. The attacks also claimed the lives of 37 Port Authority police officers and 38 members of the Port Authority's civilian staff.
Dr. Cindy Lovern, AVMA assistant director of emergency preparedness and response, attributes the efforts of Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams and the local veterinary community with preventing major injuries or deaths of search-and-recovery dogs during the massive recovery efforts.
As many as 300 dogs were working at the site of the World Trade Center disaster at any given time, Dr. Lovern said. VMATs at the site helped treat the animals for minor injuries and a few more serious ones—a few dogs suffered falls but were able to recover and get back to work quickly. Veterinarians also recognized fatigued dogs and made sure they didn't return to work before they had sufficient rest.
"[The VMATs] were able to prevent situations where more injuries are likely to occur," Dr. Lovern said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has established work and rest periods for the search-and-rescue dogs that have attained federal certification and are working with a FEMA-deployed-team. However, many dogs at the site were from independent groups and may not have been working under the same regulations. Dr. Lovern recommends that all search-and-rescue dogs and their handlers attain FEMA certification. Certification ensures that both dogs and handlers on site are properly trained, that their safety can be monitored, and that efforts can be efficiently coordinated by FEMA.
The memorial for Sirius served as an opportunity to pay tribute to the valor and sacrifices of all service dogs. Representatives from more than a hundred K-9 units from across the country filed past Sirius' cremated remains. Artist Debbie Stonebraker presented a portrait of Sirius to Lim, who also received Sirius' metal bowl, which was recovered from the disaster site.
"Every police officer in a K-9 unit knows that a well-trained police dog can save lives," said Charles D. DeRienzo, the Port Authority's superintendent of police, in a statement.
"This ceremony not only honors the memory of Sirius, but it also pays homage to thousands of police dogs who play vital roles in battling terrorists, smugglers, and other dangerous criminals."