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Last Surviving 9/11 Rescue Dog Remembered Forever As A Hero

A dog's life on earth is all too fleeting in comparison to the enduring impact dogs have on our lives - but few have left such an indelible mark on history as Bretagne, who died last week at the age of 16.

Bretagne was just a year old when she was dispatched to Ground Zero with members of the Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department's K9 Search & Rescue Team from Texas in the days following the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

Bretagne worked alongside her owner and handler, Denise Corliss, for weeks exploring the debris for survivors and the bodies of those who had died, while also providing emotional support to her fellow rescuers.

Hundreds of dogs aided in the efforts, but Bretagne would be the last to leave.

Bretagne's valiant efforts at Ground Zero would not be the last time she stood forward during a national catastrophe. Later, she participated in similarly valiant rescue attempts in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Bretagne officially retired from the military in 2010, but she continued to serve her community in different capacities. She had been a regular visitor to local elementary schools since then, until only a few weeks before her death, offering frightened pupils a patient audience to help them practice reading.

Bretagne was named the final surviving canine responder in the aftermath of 9/11 last year. On the 14th anniversary of that tragic day, Bretagne returned to Ground Zero to pay tribute to those who were gone, her face obviously marked by time.

Corliss made the heartbreaking decision to stop Bretagne's suffering when her health began to deteriorate in recent weeks. Hundreds of service members gathered on Monday to bid her farewell on her final walk, praising the brave canine as both a coworker and a friend.

Bretagne's years of devoted labor and all the lives she's touched, like all service dogs, will never be fully measured - but the legacy she's left behind will live on forever in those who knew her best.

“Some may argue that the most a dog can be is a pet, but to the over 400 members of the Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department, Bretagne was a civil servant, a hero, and a member of the family,” the department said in a statement. “We will remember her warmly and continue to serve the community in her honor.”