Jake, an American Labrador Retriever, was living as a stray with a broken leg and an injured hip when Mary Flood, a dog handler of the Utah Task Force, rescued him at 10 months old.
He likely had been born with hip dysplasia and thrown out of the window of a car by his breeder because he would be a difficult sell. Coming home from the grocery store and spotting the pup, Mary Flood immediately saw him not as a burden, but as a gift.
It was, as Mary has been quoted saying, “against all odds” that he went on to become one of the most celebrated dog heroes of America, helping to serve his country in the devastation of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.
In 1997, roughly a year after he was rescued, Jake joined the U.S. government-certified Search and Rescue Dogs of the United States, an elite organization of highly trained dogs qualified to handle large-scale disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, avalanches, water rescues, and terrorist attacks. These dogs are placed under 24/7 call.
Jake quickly arrived on site post 9/11 to help with the search and rescue process, and he spent 17 long days searching for survivors and human remains. Unfortunately, very few of the search and rescue dogs were able to recover any survivors, and the teams often had to stage mock rescues in order to keep the dogs’ spirits up, as morale was increasingly low.
He searched along the many hazards of the disaster site, avoiding smoldering fires, sharp debris, and breathing in harsh, smoky air in order to do the job he loved and earned.
As a thank you from the city of New York, he was treated to a steak dinner at an upscale restaurant, and since Jake reportedly was a lover of people-food and a “master at helping himself to any unattended food items,” it was the perfect gift.
In 2005, Jake rode a long and fraught 30 hours from Utah to Mississippi to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. There he found countless survivors in flooded homes on the coast of Mississippi, and those rescued by him will certainly never forget the welcome greeting of his wet nose.
As Jake aged and his time of service began to end, he volunteered as a therapy dog for burned children, and he frequented senior homes and hospitals.
His handler has been quoted saying, "He was a great morale booster wherever he went. He believed that his cup was always full, never half-full. He was always ready to work, eager to play.”
And in 2007, the good boy named Jake was laid to rest, his ashes scattered among the Utah hills and rivers that he so loved. He had a good last day; Mary took him for one last walk in the fields near his home.
Jake wasn’t the only dog hero of 9/11; in fact, about 300 canine search-and-rescue teams responded to the disaster. These dogs ranged from wilderness to avalanche rescue dogs, and only very few were equipped to handle a noisy, urban site like Manhattan, though they all did their best.
The dogs, such as Golden Retriever Riley, German Shepherd Trakr, and Border Collie Sage, often worked 12-hour shifts to recover as many people as possible. These dogs and their handlers helped piece America back together in any way they could, and our country can never thank them enough.
Jake’s service and the hundreds of other 9/11 search-and-rescue dogs’ services will never be forgotten.