When our country was in peril, brave four-legged responders quickly answered the call of duty, even as the scent of anguish still lingered in the air. Intent in their purpose, more than 300 search and rescue (SAR) dogs led 9/11 disaster emergency personnel into towering crannies of fiery ruins and fields of scattered debris, hoping for any sign of life. Mere days after the attacks, SAR trainer Ann Wichmann (left
) arrived on the scene of the World Trade Center in New York City with Jenner, her 9-year-old black Labrador retriever
. The site was still burning. "It was 12 to 15 stories high of rubble and twisted steel. My first thought was, 'I can't send Jenner into that—there's no way','' she tells Daily Paws. "They staged us at the high end near the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church so we could just kind of sit there and watch it for a while and see how it was being managed and how it might work." When the fire chief asked if she'd be willing to have Jenner search, she said yes, but was grateful for that orientation time. "Jenner was taking in the sights, smells, and energy as much as I was." Wichmann recalls the experience as a "compendium of emotions, thoughts, and skills" to navigate the hazards of the pile, trying to find safe pathways for Jenner. "It's really similar to a parent's panic. At one point, he disappeared down a hole under the rubble and I was like, 'uggggg!' Such a heart-stopping moment for me," she says. "But you have to acquire the patience and the trust in his being and training. And he did a safe and good job."