Remembering 9/11: Canine Military Efforts Cataloged

by Katherine on September 11, 2011

Today  many of us spent a moment of silence remembering the tragic events that occurred a decade ago, though for me, it feels like it might have been yesterday. With the attacks on American soil on September 11, many people lost their lives, and many heroes devoted their last hours to ensuring that others might continue a long life. Some of these heroes walked on two legs, some on four, and I think that as we remember all of the lives lost on that tragic day, we should not forget the amazing animals that worked alongside heroic people.



Many dogs helped to discover survivors of the September 11th attacks that were buried under rubble, or helped guide those on the streets to safety. One American White Shepherd (like Arie!) and rescue dog, Thor was even memorialized on the obituaries of urdead2me, a blog remembering lost loved ones. The writer commented on Thor’s experience, saying “His most significant [of] deployments was the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 where he served at the Pentagon at the request of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

thor, an american white shepherd and rescue dog

Thor, an American White Shepherd and rescue dog, was remembered in his own obituary post on urdead2me.

Dogs have served an integral role in search and rescue efforts for years, and even beyond 9/11, are a constant presence in our military. If you haven’t checked out War Dogs, it’s a great line up of photos showing how dogs have helped the military, with the interesting tag line “There’s a reason they brought one to get Osama bin Laden.”

soldier with dog in the back of a plane

One of the iconic photos from War Dogs and War Dogs II, an iconic series written by Rebecca Frankel for Foreign Policy Magazine.

These service dogs and the four-legged rescuers of 9/11 are remembered fondly in the minds of their human companions, the people they rescued, and beyond, with documentaries and various articles written about them, like this one. One dog, a German Shepherd who aided rescuers at the World Trade Center site, was remembered even beyond paper and thoughts. Trakr, after being nominated by his owner, James Symington, won a contest with BioArts International to become one of the first dogs to be cloned. Symington and others prized Trakr’s heart and rescue ability so much that they created an entire litter of little Trakrs.

trakr, a cloned german shepherd, and his puppies

Trakr, pictured here with his human companion and his mini-me's. Photo via Los Angeles Times article.

Efforts are underway now to create robots that would eventually replace dogs in the military, but I’m skeptical as to how well they’ll work out. The creators are trying to make robots that respond and “think” like a dog, but there’s a reason why man’s best friend’s unique instincts and loyalty have been prized for centuries. A bond so unique and so powerful, where dogs willingly risk their lives to please people and save lives, would be hard to come by through machines. Though such robots would mean less lives lost for canines in uniform, they would most likely be much less effective.

Do you know any heroic stories of military dogs coming to the rescue of people in the 9/11 attacks? What do you think of a robot canine-like soldier? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so share them in a comment.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

urdead2me September 12, 2011 at 9:51 am

Thanks for the mention. My dog and I were especially saddened by Thors passing.


Katherine kemoore309 September 12, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Thanks for the comment, and for the great post. It’s great to see a blog like yours show the importance of animals in our lives.


Jodi Stone September 12, 2011 at 11:24 am

I like the ideas of robots doing the work of dogs, I hate the fact that their lives are risked to save ours. :-)

I’m not sure robots will be as effective, but I like the idea.


Katherine kemoore309 September 12, 2011 at 12:39 pm

Hey Jodi, thanks for commenting. I agree with you that I hate to see lives risked, both human and canine, on the front lines and in emergency situations. Still, like you, I doubt they’ll be as effective.


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