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Rescue Dogs Toil to Edge of Collapse

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
By CHARLES ORNSTEIN, Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- Three blocks from ground zero, exhausted rescue workers hobble into a triage center, desperately in need of fluids, medicine and a bath.
One patient is fast asleep after being given antibiotics and pain medication. He's worked several 16- and 17-hour days, and his body can't take it anymore.

The patients, in this case, are dogs, trained to sniff out signs of life
and death. Just like their human handlers, these German shepherds are
suffering while sifting through the rubble of the World Trade Center.
One dog fell 50 feet, another one 30 feet. Both survived, vets say. One
dog had to be shot to death by its handler after being severely injured
within the pile of rubble.

This makeshift center, run by the Suffolk County SPCA and staffed
by local veterinarians, opened within hours of the terrorist attacks on the
World Trade Center. It has treated more than 300 animals from as far away as Mississippi, Georgia and Canada. "It's a lifesaver," said Robin Eckel, an
officer with the Monmouth County Sheriff's Department in New Jersey.
Eckel's dog, Chino, lost a toenail Saturday while searching supply vehicles entering the Holland Tunnel, which leads into lower Manhattan. If Eckel had had to treat the injury himself, he would have had to drive home, an hour away. "He's cleared to work again," Eckel said, leaving the tent hospital set up on West Street. "The vet said as long as he wants to work, let him work. It's not a serious injury."

Every hour, five or six dogs come through the triage center. Nearly
all require their eyes washed out and their paws massaged, as well as a
liter of intravenous fluids. Some need antibiotics. Most are bathed. The
center is equipped with a donated blood-testing laboratory that can check each
dog's kidney and liver functions within minutes. Using that information,
vets can determine each animal's ability to press on. "We have enough stuff here to run a couple hospitals if we really needed to," said Dr. Jason
Heller, a veterinarian with Central Veterinary Associates in Long Island. "God forbid one of these dogs can't go back in and find someone--that's why we're here."

Vets from around the country have called to offer help, said Dr.
John Charos, who works with Heller. Some offered to drive 24 hours to
bring dog food and other supplies. (The vets say they now have enough.)
Pharmaceutical companies have donated medicine. A pet supply company donated a case of special booties for the animals. K-9 handlers stop by before and after their shifts, and during breaks. "They're more worried about the dogs than themselves," one veterinary technician said. Joaquin Guerrero, a K-9 officer from Saginaw, Mich., brought in his dog, Rookie, to get bandaged
during a break from work. Guerrero didn't want steel or debris to cut the
dog's legs or paws. "I'm going till I can't go no more, till the dog can't go no more," Guerrero said. "So far, he's running good. He's very alert." Ammo,
the exhausted dog asleep on the grass under a blanket, doesn't even flinch when a photographer's flash goes off.

Ammo has traveled the world and has helped rescue 2,000 people, said Michael Norkelun of the Suffolk County SPCA. "He's used to working," he said. "He just worked a little too hard this time." When Ammo detects a person alive, he starts digging. When he finds the dead, he lies down.
Ammo has found no one alive in the ruins of the World Trade Center.

Thanks to Ken Plas for this article.
post #2 of 10

The recovery and cleanup efforts have been so hard on the workers. It was really interesting to read an article that described what some of the dogs that are involved with these efforts are going through. Thank you for sharing it.
post #3 of 10
Yes Hissy, Thank you for sharing that one! We don't hear enough about these talented creatures!
post #4 of 10
Actually brought tears to my eyes, these people and animals working so hard when it must be so depressing by now. And how kind people are, to help not just other people but the dogs too. Just amazes me.
post #5 of 10
I wish I was there to help in someway. Is it only german shephards? I know they use labradors, bloodhounds, and other breeds to look.
post #6 of 10

The part that jumped out at me was the fact that one dog had to be shot by his handler after he was severely injured within the pile of rubble. I was horrified! Couldn't they euthanize him by way of injection? That poor animal and his handler for having to have to do that to his partner. I'd be devastated.

post #7 of 10
I've heard that there are even a couple of cocker spaniels out there working!

I've also heard that one of the problems the handlers are facing is that the dogs who are trained to find live people become depressed when they search and search and find no one. They will have to hide other rescuers for the dogs to find so that the dogs won't become so depressed.
post #8 of 10
I was wondering about that, how the dogs felt.

It seems kind of frivolous for the workers to hide, though. Perhaps regular folks could volunteer for that? Maybe not, I suppose it's still a little dangerous.
post #9 of 10
Thread Starter 
They hide inside the building used to vet the dogs and where the workers go to catch some sleep before going back to work. Hiding in the rubble is out of the question due to the stench and the danger.
post #10 of 10
Don't I feel like a complete idiot now! Didn't even occur to me they'd hide anywhere else. What a maroon!

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