Tahlequah search dog returns home

Saturday, September 29th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A hometown hero from the rescue effort in New York City is back home. After days of searching the World Trade Center debris, a rescue dog and its handler have returned home near Tahlequah.

News on Six reporter Emory Bryan says a Cherokee County horse farm is a long way from New York City - but when the folks there needed help, it was this dog that responded. A lab named "Coach" is part of the Southern Baptist Men's Disaster Response team - her handler is Patty Taylor. "I started after the bombing, I love dogs, it seemed to fit me to a 'T'". After three years as a house pet - with monthly search and rescue training, coach was ready for the trip to New York - arriving just days after the disaster.

Coach spent three days looking for bodies in the World Trade Center. "There was rubble as far as you could see, I can't imagine the distance, it was just everywhere. It always looked the same to me because there was still so much debris, those two buildings were huge, the debris is unbelievable." Taylor walked over the pile for three days, hoping Coach would find a survivor. "When she gets something she will set, she has what they call a passive alert, she'll set and then I know I have something whether it's dead or alive we don't know until I get there and we didn't find anybody alive."

And while Coach appears to be relaxed - Taylor says both dog and owner are struggling with what they saw. "She's jittery, she's jumpy, she's more aggressive than normally a very passive animal, more jumpy cranky. You think you're so exhausted you could lay down and go to sleep but you can't and the things aren't playing over in my mind yet probably when I'm able to sleep they will but they haven't yet." And while rest is easier for the dog than the owner - Taylor says she's' packed and ready to go - to finish the job if they're needed.

Taylor says during their time in New York, coach "alerted" hundreds of times, indicating the presence of a victim. So far just 300 victims have been uncovered, and nearly six thousand remain missing.