A tribute to all the heroes of 9/11

Detection dog teams, veterinarians honored at anniversary ceremony
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The canine and human members of the detection dog teams that responded to the 9/11 attacks and the veterinary professionals who cared for the dogs were honored on the 10th anniversary of that tragic day.

Hundreds of people gathered at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, N.J., for the ceremony, just across the bay from where the World Trade Center once stood.

Lt. David Lim and VMAT members
New York/New Jersey Port Authority Police Lt. David Lim and members of the AVMA Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams participated in a ceremony to honor detection dog teams and veterinary professionals who responded to the 9/11 attacks. Lim's dog Sirius was the only police dog killed during the attacks.

In attendance were detection dog teams from around the country as well as veterinarians and veterinary technicians who treated the dogs at that time. Among those represented were the AVMA Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams and the Suffolk County (N.Y.) Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Jofa is the surviving partner of Army Sgt. Zainah C. Creamer, the first female military dog handler killed in any U.S. war.

The nonprofit Finding One Another organized the anniversary tribute. The organization estimates at least 950 detection dog teams participated in the 9/11 emergency response, assisting in search-and-rescue and recovery efforts and providing security.

New Jersey Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg was at the ceremony, and, after observing a moment of silence, he noted the heroism of the canine search-and-rescue teams, calling them an indispensible asset to the country.

AVMA President René A. Carlson praised the 51 VMAT members who risked their physical and emotional well-being to ensure the search-and-rescue dogs were healthy enough to continue their important work. The VMATs provided more than 900 medical treatments to some 300 dogs at ground zero, Dr. Carlson observed.

"Serving others at whatever cost is what the VMAT teams did 10 years ago at ground zero," she said. "They did what they do best: They took care of the animals. And, in their own way, they took care of the dog handlers—giving them the peace of mind that came with knowing the finest emergency veterinary services were immediately available should their dogs get sick or injured."

Dr. Otto receives painting of Sirius
Dr. Cindy M. Otto receives a painting of Sirius, the only police dog killed on 9/11, from handler Lt. David Lim of the New York/New Jersey Port Authority Police Department. Dr. Otto is director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center and national co-chair of the Finding One Another tribute. (Photos by Dr. Heather Case)

During the ceremony, two military dog handlers killed in combat were the first recipients of the Sirius Courage Award. Sirius was a bomb-detection K-9 with the New York/New Jersey Port Authority Police Department. The dog was kenneled in the second tower of the World Trade Center when the building collapsed. Sirius is the only police dog killed during the 9/11 attacks. Sirius' handler, Lt. David Lim, presented the awards in honor of Army Sgt. Zainah C. Creamer and Navy Petty Officer 1st Class John Douangdara.

Creamer died of wounds caused by an improvised explosive device Jan. 12 in Afghanistan and is the first female war-dog handler killed in any U.S. war. Her dog Jofa survived the IED attack and was honored at the ceremony. Douangdara and his canine partner Bart were killed when the CH-47 Chinook helicopter they were riding in was shot down over Afghanistan Aug. 6.

Special recognition was paid to Penny Sullivan, a pioneer in canine detection who has deployed to numerous disaster zones and participated in countless missing persons searches. Sullivan was a member of the government subcommittee that developed search-and-rescue dog criteria for disaster response and is co-founder of Ramapo Rescue Dog Association, one of the oldest K-9 SAR units in the country.

At the ceremony's end, the American Kennel Club, working dog clubs, and other canine organizations signed a pledge to cooperate with the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies to "develop programs designed to provide the ready supply of American working dogs" for use in protecting America.