9/11 Canine Hero

By: Ryan Dearbone
By: Ryan Dearbone

Sniper and 8-year-old dog loves his downtime at home.

"Tennis balls, tennis balls are his main things. He's a tennis ball guy aren't ya?" his trainer Anne Dottore said.

However, his day job is one of the most dangerous you'll find.

Sniper is a human remains detection and search and rescue dog.

Five years ago, in the hysteria of 9/11, the black Labrador and his owner/trainer Dottore were commissioned to find those lost in the rubble.

"The actual remains that the dogs were finding were unrecognizable as a part of a human but the dogs knew what it was," Dottore said.

Dottore and Sniper worked 12 hour shifts along with hundreds of other rescue dogs to find bodies trapped in debris.

"Really you want to focus on the fact that you're bringing closure to the families." Dottore also said that although the mood was somber, they used toys and treats to keep the canines upbeat.

Sniper has been certified to work with FEMA and has aided them in missions for hurricanes Ophelia and Katrina.

The canine has been with Dottore since he was born. She said it took about two years to train him for this type of work.

"We train every week you start with basic stuff for the puppies and then you add in more advanced agility. They have to learn how to climb ladders, that type of thing."

Now Sniper is heading into the sunset of his career, and already has plans for retirement.

"When he retires, he can essentially do whatever he wants. There will be tennis balls and lakes and there will be no more having to travel, no more having to do the hard work," Dottore said. And that seems to suit this hero just fine.

Five years after 9/11, Kennel Club Books is releasing "Dog Heroes of September 11th: A tribute to America's Search and Rescue dogs." The book spotlights 77 of the dogs and their owners, including Sniper and Dottore. The proceeds of the book go to the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation.

To learn more about dogs like Sniper visit www.bluegrasscanine.com and www.searchdogfoundation.org.

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