NEW YORK (AP) — A black Labrador who burrowed through smoking debris after the September 11 attacks and flooded rubble after Hurricane Katrina in search of survivors died after developing cancer.
Owner Mary Flood had 12-year-old Jake put to sleep Wednesday after a last stroll through the fields and a dip in the creek near their home in Oakley, Utah. Mrs. Flood said Jake was in pain, shaking with a 105-degree fever as he lay on the lawn.
No one can say whether the dog would have gotten sick if he hadn’t been exposed to the toxic air at the World Trade Center, but cancer in dogs Jake’s age is common.
Some owners of rescue dogs who worked at ground zero say their animals died because of their work there. But scientists who have spent years studying the health of September 11 search-and-rescue dogs have found no sign of major illness in the animals.
Many human ground-zero workers complain of health problems that they attribute to their time at the site: The largest study conducted of about 20,000 ground-zero workers reported last year that 70 percent of patients suffer respiratory disease years after the cleanup.
The city earlier this year added to its September 11 death toll a woman who died in 2002 of lung disease, five months after she was caught in the dust cloud of the collapsing Twin Towers.
The results of an autopsy on Jake’s body will be part of a medical study on the September 11 dogs that was started by the University of Pennsylvania more than five years ago.
Mrs. Flood adopted Jake as a 10-month-old puppy. He had been abandoned on a street with a broken leg and a dislocated hip.
“But against all odds, he became a world-class rescue dog,” said Mrs. Flood, a member of Utah Task Force 1, a federal search-and-rescue team that looked for human remains at the Trade Center site.
On the evening of the team’s arrival in New York, Jake walked into a fancy Manhattan restaurant wearing his search-and-rescue vest and was treated to a free steak dinner under a table.
Mrs. Flood eventually trained Jake to become one of fewer than 200 U.S. government-certified rescue dogs — an animal on 24-hour call to tackle disasters such as building collapses, earthquakes, hurricanes and avalanches.
After Katrina in August 2005, Mrs. Flood and Jake drove from Utah to Mississippi, where they searched for survivors in flooded homes.