I have seen some extraordinary ceremonies at the Rainbow Bridge, but I have never seen one like the festivity that happened earlier this week.
There were hundreds of dogs, all dressed in uniforms, with many ribbons, waiting for Bretagne, a beautiful Golden Retriever, the last rescue dog to work at the Twin Towers after the attack on September 11, 2001, to remain on the mortal side. Every dog stood, one paw in the air saluting, while the Corgis played a slow drumroll, and Bretagne approached me to take the oath of angeldom.
This year, for the first time in since 2000, people will cast votes for President who are too young to remember that day. I wish I could forget it. I could sense that something very bad had happened that morning but I had no idea of the magnitude. Daddy came home from work and took Blake and I over to the State Mental Hospital across the street from our house, where he watched us frolic in the sunshine. Blake and I played very hard. We didn’t know why, but we knew it brought daddy a sense of peace.
There were fearful times after the attacks. Everyday Blake and I got a walk at the hospital with our parents. We always stopped to watch the sun setting, the sky turning orange and blue. Small incidents like a sunset met a lot to parents at that time.
Meanwhile, at Ground Zero, other dogs were sniffing through the wreckage, looking for survivors: One of those dogs was Bretagne. While they did not find any survivors they accomplished something that comes naturally to all dogs: They provided emotional support to those digging in the ruins, doing the world’s hardest work. They did not save any who had been lost, but they helped save the saviors.
Over the next 15 years Bretagne continued her public service. She, and her human partner, Denise Corliss, rescued people after Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita, and many other storms.
Bretagne retired from her assignment with Texas Task Force One. but she did not retire from public service. She went to schools to work with children who found it difficult to read out loud. Those students read to Bretagne until they got the confidence to read in front of the class.
When the day came that Bretagne had to pass over the River of Life, the Cy-Fair Fire Department, of Harris Texas, lined the walkway to the veterinarian's office, to pay their final respects to Bretagne. They stayed until she passed to the immortal side. A casket with her mortal remains was covered with an American flag, and pushed past the honor guard, who gave one final mortal salute.
A short time later, Bretagne was receiving her first immortal salute from her fellow angel dogs. She proudly saluted back.
Bretagne will continue to watch over people. She will be an angel for all rescue workers, and all those who need rescuing.
Every dog is a hero in their own way, but no dog I have encountered is a hero in as many ways as Bretagne.