On September 11, 2001, Bretagne came to New York City to help with rescue efforts. Fourteen years later, the golden retriever returned for a happier occasion: her 16th birthday.
Bretagne and her owner, Denise Corliss, were members of Texas Task Force 1 before Bretagne’s retirement. They helped with rescue efforts for the 9/11 terror attacks, Hurricane Katrina and more. To honor her service, some of New York’s biggest dog lovers decided to make Bretagne’s birthday special this year.
“After hearing Bretagne’s story and learning that her 16th birthday was coming up, there was no question in our minds that she deserved a Dog’s Best Day for the ages,” wrote Bark Post, the group that coordinated Bretagne’s trip.
Her big birthday trip started with a hero’s welcome at the dog-friendly 1 Hotel Central Park. The day continued with the viewing of a personalized billboard in Times Square, a frolic in Hudson River Park and a big surprise party.
Sept. 11 was Bretagne and Corliss’ first deployment. As the mission shifted from rescue to recovery, Corliss said Bretagne stayed focused.
“When our task force arrived in Ground Zero, I just couldn’t believe the magnitude,” Corliss said. “And I looked down at her, and she seemed stoic and ready to work.”
Bretagne is the last known surviving dog of the 100 who joined the rescue efforts, according to Bark Post. In addition to search-and-rescue skills, Bretagne is an excellent therapy dog, Corliss said, and she still volunteers at elementary schools.
“She represents working dogs and the disaster dogs in particular,” Corliss said. “They all are deserving for a day like today.”