This is Sirius

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, September 11, 2012 8:20 PM

He was born in January 1997, wriggly and pale, not nearly as bright as the name he would be given. He grew quickly, went through extensive training at the Port Newark K-9 Center and when he graduated on July 15, 2000, he went to work as an Explosive Detection Dog, partnered with Sergeant David Lim of the Port Authority of New York and the New Jersey Police K-9 Unit. His name was Sirius. His badge number was 17. He would not live to see his fifth birthday.

Lim and Sirius were assigned to the Port Authority Police Station in the basement of the World Trade Center, Tower Two. The South Tower. Together they checked trucks and other vehicles entering the building for explosives, a job that had become even more important after the failed February 26, 1993 attack when a truck bomb was detonated below the North Tower. Sirius and Sim worked tirelessly each day and would return at night to Sim’s home where Sirius would sleep on the floor next to his master and handler’s bed. Sim described his nearly 100 pound dog, a big Yellow Labrador Retriever, as a “big mush” who thought he was a lap dog but who was completely dedicated and methodical when he was working.

Lim and Sirius were on duty on that bright Tuesday morning in September when madmen flew airplanes into both towers. Lim, not wanting Sirius to get lost in the chaos, put him in his kennel in their basement office, assuring the undoubtedly frantic dog that he would be back for him. Lim ran to help but never made it back for Sirius. When the South Tower collapsed at 9:59 am, less than an hour after United flight 175 hit between the 77th and 85th floors, Sirius was killed, crushed instantly while still inside his kennel. He was the only dog to die in the line of duty during the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Sirius is the dog star, so named by ancient Greeks. It is the brightest star in the sky, the anchor of the constellation Canis Major. The big dog. He is the watchdog of the heavens, fixed in one place at the bridge of the Milky Way, there to keep a watchful eye on the great abyss. He has burned brightly since time began.

It is said that Sirius the dog star contains the essence of souls. Perhaps it now contains that of the dog that lived up to that legend, the legend of his name.

More than 350 trained search and rescue dogs worked at Ground Zero following the attacks, using their senses of smell and better agility to direct workers to those who were injured or deceased. An additional 350 therapy dogs were also deployed to help comfort people. Among them German Shepherds, Australian Shepherds, Belgian Shepherds, Rat Terriers, Portuguese Waterdogs, Border Collies, Belgian Malinois, Golden Retrievers, and Chocolate, Black and Yellow Labradors like Sirius. Most worked in shifts of 7 to 14 days in order to limit their risk for respiratory illness; no others died during the rescue and then recovery efforts.

Many have since passed on, some from old age, some from neurological conditions, some from cancers. Only twelve of the dogs that searched through the debris are still alive. They walked through twisted metal and across broken glass, crawling into small spaces, in the dark, working to find survivors. Ultimately only 20 people were pulled from the World Trade Center. Of the thousands who perished, many of their remains were discovered by these dogs, perhaps allowing for some sense of despondent closure for the families. The dogs also did something else: they helped alleviate anxiety. They provided hope for the hundreds of workers who strained under inhuman conditions in the hope of finding someone, anyone alive.

Officer Sim himself had been trapped for five hours on what was left of the fourth floor of Tower One when it collapsed at 10:28 that morning. Once freed, he tried to make his way to his dog, and was stopped by other rescue workers.

Sirius, as painted by artist Debbie Stonebraker

Sirius’ body was recovered on January 22, 2002, the month of what would have been his fifth birthday. His body was draped with an American flag. All of the machines digging through the debris were silenced and all workers lined up to salute as he was carried from the wreckage by his friend, Officer Sim.

A memorial service was held on April 24, 2002 at Liberty State Park in Jersey City. One hundred police dogs wearing badges covered by black ribbon attended along with hundreds of human officers. An FBI agent who had found Sirius’ metal water bowl in Lim’s car amidst the debris presented it to Lim, inscribed with these words: “I gave my life so that you may save others.”

Sirius didn’t have the opportunity to help on that day, but he was – and is –  a star of legend and mythology. Today, like so many others, his star continues to burn brightly, to show the way for other heroic dogs; to make sure that each of us knows the power, the wonder and the joy of living it out loud. 

Comments (2) -

9/13/2012 8:13:28 AM #

I love how this dog was honored. I met a World Trade center dog who lived up the hill from Greggs. He was a gentle German Shepherd who was blind in one eye after a piece of metal from the Trade center pierced it. He was recently put down due to illness but he was so sweet. Followed Caden around watching as Caden was in the stream etc. Ready to assist should anything danger come to him. I love dogs...

Khris United States

9/13/2012 8:14:22 AM #

anything should be any  Smile

Khris United States

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