Disaster City, the 52-acre search and rescue training center located in College Station, Texas, is a playground for first responders and is where trainees go to receive training that is certified by the Federal Emergency Management Association, better known as FEMA. Those training there are often made up of humans and/or canines. In fact, search-and-rescue dog handler Denise Corliss has been spending two weekends a month for the last 15 years at the center training the dogs because she loves Disaster City so much, along with her Golden Retriever Bretagne (pronounced “Britney”), who is actually one of the last surviving 9/11 search and rescue dogs.
Back in 2001, Corliss and Bretagne were just newly graduated from Disaster City when they ended up getting deployed to the Big Apple right after the World Trade Center attacks. They joined the many search and rescue teams from around the world that would look for survivors at ground zero that worked almost around the clock. 9/11 was actually the first of many natural disasters that the duo work together; they also deployed for others, including Hurricane Katrina and Rita. Despite all that training, Corliss admits: “there were still times when I held my breath and said, ‘I hope she does this right. I hope she’s OK.'”
Bretagne left her task force in 2009 so she could work on being a search and rescue dog for her local fire department. However, a few more years later, the Golden Retriever decided to retire – but that didn’t mean she was finished helping out! The now-15-year-old dog allots one time a week teaching kids how to read, visiting elementary classrooms where kids who have trouble reading out loud to their peers (or are just intimidated or afraid) can read to her, developing their skills. The Golden Retriever isn’t Corliss’ only dog, as she also has raised and trained another two dogs, Aid’n and Taser.
(Photo Source: Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service)