What the 9/11 search and rescue dogs show about our interdependence on animals · A Humane World

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Together, first responders and their dog partners did one of the toughest jobs ever in the days after September 11, 2001. iStockphoto

Twenty years ago, in the days after September 11, 2001, heroic first responders undertook the unthinkable task of going into the rubble looking for signs of life. By her side were the search and rescue dogs who over the past two decades have received so much love and admiration for their role in finding survivors.

One story I read and remembered is about something that happened between the first responders and these dogs during those searches. As the dogs passed hours and hours and then days without finding any sign of life, their energetic spirits began to leave them. They seemed defeated and hopeless. To keep them going, their human partners staged the discovery of a living person and did what we all hoped to do in this place. After this spectacle, the dogs showed signs of renewed energy and determination – I imagine their limp tails began to wag again.

Even if the search and rescue dogs that roamed the rubble in the days following the attacks found few signs of life, they clearly played an outsized role in the lives of the first responders who faced this unthinkable experience and next to them through a landscape of dust, Rubble and destruction everywhere. Together, these human-dog partners did one of the toughest jobs of all.

I think I am returning to this story because it shows something about how the relationships between humans and animals are infinitely diverse, intriguingly complex and, perhaps most importantly, deeply intertwined. This fact shapes so much of my thinking and our work here at the Humane Society family organization: Animals do not occupy a separate area, but are inextricably linked to our own lives in the world we share.

I believe that every animal has a story, and so many of those stories show our particular interdependence with them. I recently read about a dog in South Korea who saved the life of his 90-year-old companion. I also read about a New York fire department that adopted a pig to cheer the firefighters. Stories like this pop up every day showing that animals are our fellow creatures who deserve all the protection, recognition and respect we can build within the larger society and all of its institutions.

Recognizing our relationships with animals is also important as we look to the future and continue to raise awareness about animals and their conditions. The pandemic is a painful wake-up call: we cannot continue to imprison animals in dire and debilitating conditions on fur farms, wildlife markets and factory farms thinking that it has no direct impact on human health. Climate change and related problems such as disasters that mankind has never faced before, such as environmental degradation and an unprecedented number of endangered species, can only be addressed with strength and perseverance if our society realizes the deep meaning of Animals and their nature as well as our interdependence. This is what I understand more and more by a “humane society” and aim to do so.

Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.


Companion animals, uncategorized