From the "Critters" page of the New York City Daily News
Saturday, November 17, 2001
By Kristoffer A. Garin
Daily News writer
In the human tragedy of Sept. 11, some heroes weren't
human at all.
Rescue dogs from around the country took great risks to
find living souls beneath the pile. One of the bravest is Servous, a
9-year-old Belgian Malinois.
Servous' efforts at the World Trade Center nearly killed
him twice, and his injuries have forced him off the job at Illinois'
East Carondelet Police Department, where he worked with K-9 Officer
After watching the twin towers collapse on TV,
Christensen and Servous made the 990-mile drive as quickly as they
could, arriving exhausted on the morning of Sept. 13 in their squad car.
"I stood there looking at all the damage and
destruction," Christensen said. "As I'm looking at all the smoke and
dust, a guy ran up and said, 'There's victims off of [Liberty Plaza] --
we need a K-9.'"
The man led Christensen and Servous to a menacing hole
in the rubble. They had begun to crawl in when disaster struck.
"Something caught my pack, spun me right around, and the
next thing I know my dog slid by me into the hole, into dust up to his
eyes," said Christensen.
Pulling him out, Christensen scooped a large handful of
dust out of Servous' mouth. The dog's tongue was completely purple -- a
"We poured water over his face and liquid concrete came
out of his nose," said Christensen. "he was dying."
Alert rescue workers found an oxygen tank, and cops
rushed Servous up the FDR [Highway] to the Animal Medical Center on E.
Servous pulled through, thanks to hospital doctors who
flushed the debris out of his lungs with a tube.
Knowing his partner was too badly injured to work,
Christensen decided to leave Servous in the squad car and go help out
with the bucket brigade.
But Servous had other plans.
"This is an incredibly obedient dog," Christensen said.
"When I opened the car door, he jumped out and wouldn't get back in. He
looked at me, like 'No, I'm going with you.' To my dying day, I'll never
Hearing another call for K-9 help, Christensen and
Servous spent hours searching the rubble. Then Servous took a second
near-fatal spill -- this time off an elevated steel girder.
"It put him right back into that respiratory trouble,"
said Christensen. "I started screaming for oxygen again, a doctor showed
up on the scene, and we rushed back up to the Animal Medical Center. I
said, that's it, this dog has given about 1,000%. I'm not going to kill
When a weakened but stabilized Servous -- legs bandaged
and sporting an IV needle -- saw his handler come into the ICU, he
thumped his tail on the floor, and the room broke into tears. By then it
was Saturday, and Christensen knew it was time to go home.
It wasn't until the drive back, riding home with his
wounded partner, that Christensen wept.
It is unlikely Servous will ever be an active police dog
again -- the dog who chased down violent criminals in some of Illinois'
worst areas is too traumatized now even for the hero's welcome he so
"If people start clapping, he starts shaking,"
Christensen said. "When I take him somewhere I have to take an oxygen
bottle just in case. It's the only thing that brings him out of it."
But as long as there isn't too much noise, Servous is
happy. He's resting. And far from being put out to pasture, he'll be
taking on a different job.
Servous is going to be a coach. Christensen has already
ordered a new puppy, and Servous will help train it.
Go on to When I Was a
Return to 25 November 2001 Issue
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