WOODBURY - On Sept. 11, hundreds of search and rescue dogs were called upon to scour the rubble at Ground Zero for survivors alongside first responders, and a group of volunteers from Long Island was there to treat the exhausted animals.
Ralph Fullbeir, a canine trainer with the Suffolk County Police Department, headed to Lower Manhattan with his dog two hours after the planes hit the towers. He recalls that the conditions were rough on both the handlers and the animals.
"Their eyes would get filled with the dust," he says. "Some of them looked like they went through a snowstorm just from a few hours of searching."
To help the four-legged first responders, the Suffolk SPCA set up a MASH unit at Ground Zero. At the time, it was the only mobile animal hospital in the U.S. that could treat so many animals on site.
Volunteer veterinarians and SPCA officers washed down the dogs, cleaned out their eyes and wrapped their paws cut by sharp debris.
In eight weeks, the SPCA treated more than 350 dogs, exhausted and dehydrated, getting them back to the task at hand.
The last of the Sept. 11 search and rescue dogs passed away recently.