Response History of TDI after 9/11, my Report

Often questions are raised for security responses on web pages: Where were you when you first heard about 9/11?

On September 11, I had arrived at Frankfurt airport from a flight from Newark NJ, to attend a class re-union. Hearing the news about the horrific happenings in downtown Manhattan at the World Trade Center and in Washington was unbelievable.

Going back I will try to recount how we served with our Therapy Dogs in NYC/ NJ and at the Pentagon in Washington.

I knew we had to help with our Therapy Dogs. We had gained some experience with this type of response after the bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. Our TDI dog teams from our Oklahoma City Chapter had been able to work with the families of the victims, first responders and helpers. We will try to republish our special newsletter from that time “Heartache in the Heartlands”. Please keep checking our web-page.

Part of our mission is to respond with our Therapy Dogs where we are needed!

Having personally lived and worked in downtown Manhattan in the Sixties, even prior to the building of the World Trade Center made this very personal.

I immediately reacted to the news and requested two of our regional chapters from the New York area and a chapter from the Washington area to offer help with our Therapy Dogs.

Mayor Rudy Giuliani had done a terrific job by immediately responding and setting up a Family Assistance Center and other Government Response centers at the NYC Piers. There were also other Assistance Centers at different locations in Manhattan.

It was not easy for our volunteers to convince the authorities to be able to respond. There definitely were some very hard working individuals who through persistence were able to pave the way for the Therapy Dogs!

Some of our members were able to work for a few days, early on, at Ground Zero. Apparently all kinds of people with dogs showed up. I am talking about a particular group of “Out-of-Towners” who flew into NY with their dogs. Being careless dog handlers, their dogs were drinking some of the contaminated water. This incident stopped the dogs from being allowed to work at Ground Zero. Some people for very short periods of time were able to gain access. It was a tragedy that subsequently we could not respond at Ground Zero. During my work and travels around Manhattan with my Therapy Dog Wusel I recall in particular one helper who worked at Ground Zero who hugged me, crying and begging for us to come with the dogs to Ground Zero. I will never forget this plea, and being so helpless to change things to respond to all the places where we were needed! We worked mostly at the Pier 94 Assistance center in Manhattan, where we were also very much needed by the helpers and the families of the victims. Some of us were able to accompany the families of the victims on a Ferry Ride to Ground Zero. This was a very sad experience and specially to my dog Wusel. Standing on the platform and looking at what was left was a very solemn occasion for the families. There was a little Memorial Area set up where the families could leave flowers or a stuffed toy. While staying outside this Memorial my Wusel stood there hanging his head. He felt the intensive grief of the people so much! Being sensitive of the feelings of people a Therapy Dog interacts with, is why dogs or some animals, can be so beneficial to humans in helping, specially, during intense stressful situations

Our work in the aftermath of 9/11 involved in covering every 2nd day all the shifts in 2 hour increments. We had about 100 volunteers working in the NY/NJ area until the 13th of December, 2001. In Washington at the Pentagon our volunteers worked for approximate 4 weeks.

I cannot say enough about all the people who were involved in helping. Starting with Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his Staff and all the Red Cross volunteers who responded from all across the country and the world. The Salvation Army who had set up a booth in front of the Center. The members of the Police Force who were responsible for Security. I met so many wonderful people!

Volunteering as a TDI dog handler has many rewards, to be able to bring some joy and comfort to people in need is a privilege!

On YouTube you will find a photo video of all the TDI dogs who responded after 9/11.

Ursula A. Kempe, TDI President

With the help of the volunteers involved we devised a special DSR test in November 2001, while we were still visiting. We keep adding to this test as we gain more and more experience from situations encountered during our responses.

DSRD (Disaster Stress Relief Dogs) have some advanced training and must pass this test in order to be called out to respond after an incident.

For some additional information about our work., please visit our DSR pages on this website.

Sadly, after all this time we still are not called out officially by FEMA or Homeland Security. We still cannot fly with our specially trained DSR dogs in cabin when we are on a Response. Who can help us with this?

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Why We Are TDI Members

By: Annette Smith

Last Tuesday during our weekly visit to the local hospice residence, I discovered why my TDI dog, Nicky Bella, and I are committed to these visits. In the hallway I stopped to chat with a family member who mentioned that her Mom had been an avid dog lover, and would have loved to have seen Nicky Bella. Unfortunately, she had just received the Last Rites, was in a coma, and was surrounded by her family members.

Nicky and I went into the room, and after talking about Nicky for a while, I noticed that this woman had slightly opened her eyes. I pulled a chair up to the bed, and had Nicky get on it. The comatose patient actually reached up and gave Nicky a little pet before closing her eyes, and sinking back into her deep sleep. The family members were beside themselves. They couldn’t believe what they had just witnessed. I still get choked up when I think about this.

Nicky Bella, a dog that was rescued off the streets at 6 months of age, and then sat in a kennel for 3 years, is now giving so much to so many. She does a weekly Tail Waggin' Tutors program with a 4th grade and a local library, tags along while I help transport wheel chairs for a weekly church service at our County Nursing home (and of course has to visit with everyone along the way), regularly visits other nursing homes, a drug treatment program and will be adding a soon-to-be-opened assisted living home. Of course she attends Sunday Services and sits on the altar with the choir.

These Therapy Dogs give so much to so many, and I have no doubt that upon crossing the Rainbow Bridge, they will take their rightful place at the foot of our Lord in Heaven!

TDI In The News

Another First for Therapy Dogs International (TDI)

The author, left, smiles as Ambassador Robert F. Godecpresents Forest with his honorary embassy badge at an awards ceremony in Nairobi.

Forest, a German Shepherd Dog, registered with Therapy Dogs International, has been declared an honorary member of the US Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. He is the US State Department's first "therapy dog".

Please follow the link to the article about this wonderful TDI team.

Paws That Refresh

What is a Therapy Dog?

A Therapy Dog is a dog with an outstanding temperament

A Therapy Dog tolerates other animals

A Therapy Dog wants to visit with people

A Therapy Dog loves children

A Therapy Dog gets along with other dogs

Why Don't Therapy Dogs
Wear Vests?

Therapy Dogs are to be petted, and vests cut down on the petting area. Additionally, the use of vests can confuse a Therapy Dog with a Service Dog.

A TDI Therapy Dog on Visits is
Identified by:

A TDI Bandana

A current TDI ID Tag

A flat buckle collar or simple harness

A current TDI ID Card