Home Store In Memoriam Deborah Newsletter Forum Topics Blogfeed Blogroll Facebook MySpace Contact Us About

9/11 Rescue Dogs Continued

Reported by Deborah - August 23, 2004 -

Here is an interesting article, that relates to my post tonight, about 9/11 rescue dog's high cancer rate.Although Laurie Dhue reported that the University of Pennsylvania does not link ground zero to cancer, this article tells a different tale. Seems the University is actually conducting a five year study on these wonderful dogs so they must suspect something? The story was published in the August 4, 2004 edition of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

9/11 search dogs studied for illnesses

Wednesday, August 04, 2004
Rookie was one spectacular dog.
The German shepherd, a K-9 officer in the Saginaw, Mich., Police Department, used his acute sense of smell to track bad guys and lost people and find illegal drugs.
He was also a certified therapy dog, and off-duty, he was the much-loved pet of his handler, Officer Joaquin Guerrero and his wife, Cari.
Rookie's greatest legacy, Guerrero says, is his work in an educational program called Precinct 131. Dog and man visited schoolchildren to teach the dangers of drug abuse. They also taught children how to have happy and safe interactions with dogs.
When Guerrero says, "Rookie wasn't just a dog. He was a sworn police officer," you can just hear the love, admiration and awe in his voice: "We worked together for eight years and he was the best partner I ever had."
Rookie's K-9 career went to a whole new level when he and Guerrero traveled Sept. 12, 2001, to lower Manhattan.
An estimated 300 search and rescue dogs sniffed the debris. Because there was no one to rescue, dogs and handlers performed the horrific task of finding and removing bodies and body parts.
The dogs worked in shifting debris considered too dangerous for humans. Always working close by were Cari Guerrero, also a Michigan police officer, and her K-9, Felony, who is Rookie's sister.
"We were there for 10 days, working 10- and 12-hour shifts and sometimes double shifts. No one had ever worked a scene like that and you wish you could have done more," Joaquin Guerrero says. "There were smells and sounds and a heaviness in the air. There were things that I still cannot talk about."
Search and rescue dogs also functioned as therapy dogs.
"Firemen, police officers and volunteers were looking for their buddies and family members," Guerrero says. "The firemen were talking to the dogs and petting them and you could just see the bond being built. They were releasing what they were going through."
Human workers and volunteers wore masks to protect their noses and lungs from toxins and cancer-causing substances in the debris and in the air.
The dogs could not wear masks and some veterinarians and researchers fear that dogs who worked in Manhattan and at the Pentagon may now face a higher risk of developing cancer.
When Joaquin and Cari Guerrero heard about health studies for the dogs of 9/11, they enrolled Rookie and Felony.
Two dozen dogs are enrolled in a five-year study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania, the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation and The Iams Co., which makes dog food.
The dogs will receive free yearly MRIs.
In November, when Rookie was scheduled for a routine teeth cleaning, his vet found a bump in his mouth smaller than a pea. He suspected an abscessed tooth and X-rays showed nothing to be alarmed about.
"On Dec. 23, when we went to have the tooth checked, there was a big mass in his jaw," Guerrero says. "Biopsy results indicated no cancer, but perhaps an antibiotic-resistant infection."
On Jan. 28, Rookie and Felony traveled to the Iams Pet Imaging Center in Vienna, Va., for MRIs. Felony was fine "but Rookie had cancer in his mouth and they said it looked pretty serious."
Rookie had osteosarcoma, an aggressive, fast-spreading cancer, said Dr. Liesa Stone, an Iams veterinarian.
"The people at Iams said they wanted to save Rookie's life. On Feb. 5, he had surgery and they removed a mass the size of a large lemon. They did chemotherapy, and that went well, using a new drug developed by Pfizer. His last treatment was April 28."
Though all of this, Rookie continued to work part time, when he felt well enough, which was most of the time. But by late June, one of Rookie's eyes was drooping. Tests showed the cancer had spread to his lungs. He died June 30 at age 9.
Guerrero is encouraging handlers who worked the 9/11 disaster scenes to participate in the Iams study. Everything that Rookie went through could help other dogs, he says.
"Cancer is the leading nonaccidental cause of death for dogs," according to an Iams news release. "Nearly half of dogs over age 10 die from cancer."
Stone says it's way too early to tell whether Rookie's cancer was caused by his work at Ground Zero. Only 24 dogs are getting yearly MRIs. All of those dogs, including Felony, are in good health.
Iams would like to enroll all the dogs of 9/11. Handlers should call Iams at 1-866-4PETMRI.