Animal Planet is broadcasting a one-hour documentary titled: “Hero Dogs of 9/11.” The program will coincide with the tenth anniversary of September 11th. During the search and recovery efforts on Ground Zero for eight months, K-9 Disaster Relief was the only credentialed organization with full access to provide Canine Disaster Relief Services. “Nikie” a 120-pound golden retriever worked side-by-side with his handler, Frank Shane, who is the Executive Director of K-9 Disaster Relief.
The Exclusive and all-new documentary special tells the true stories of people who were saved by remarkable working dogs at Ground Zero. Hero Dogs of 9/11 goes behind-the-scenes of the infamous tragedy to see the never before seen stories that feature some of the unheralded canine heroes.
The program is historic in many aspects – – Frank Shane, with Nikie, was able to document eight months of personal and intimate contact with thousands of rescue, recovery, firefighters, police, uniformed services, volunteers and the men and women who not only saved lives, but did in nine months what most predicted would take years to accomplish. In a post-filming interview, Shane said, “ten years ago, Ground Zero was an apocalypse – it was “hell-on-earth,” but the dogs had jobs and just went to work. They were focused and fearless in their mission.”
Nikie passed away in April 2004. Today, all of the dogs of 9/11 have died who were on Ground Zero for more than a few weeks. According to the producers of the documentary, “they leave a legacy and a story that needs to be told.” The program will highlight the noble mission of those dogs and the positive impact they had on the dog world and mankind.
Reflecting on the filming, Shane said, “coming back to Ground Zero was very emotional, especially retracing the footsteps of Nikie.” The production team wanted to include his new canine partner in training “Chance.” Almost a year old, Chance is a high achieving Crème Retriever who excels at new challenges. During the filming in July, New York City hit record temperatures in the high 90’s. There were post-filming concerns about the extreme heat, plus the health, safety and security issues.
The National September 11 Memorial & Museum made special arrangements to have the first interview take place inside the Museum. Frank said, “They were so kind and accommodating – – everyone went out of their way to provide a tranquil place.” The Memorial and Museum is directly across from where the south WTC tower stood. “Chance was by my feet during the filming of that segment. With his comforting presence, I was able to describe in vivid detail how Nikie was stoic and courageous.” Filming continued at and around Ground Zero over several days. “It was like a miracle,” Shane remarked. “temperatures and humidity dropped and it was very reminiscent of the abnormally cooler days after 9/11.”
The final interviews were done in St. Paul’s directly across from Ground Zero. The church had become a special respite and sanctuary for rescue and recovery workers. “It was a long and tiring day of filming – – I was looking forward to seeing the church again and taking some private time to reflect.” Special permission was granted to film inside the church. Shane remembered, “On many nights we’d be tired and needed a place to rest. In the church I would rest on a pew and Nikie would snore away.”
Inside St. Paul’s, Frank walked towards the area, but instead of a pew, Nikie’s image appeared. He said, “I hadn’t realized that St. Paul’s was now more than a church.” Over the past ten years, St. Paul’s had become a sacred place where visitors from all over the world could see artifacts and mementos, and most of all, learn firsthand about the courage of those who risked their lives to help others in our darkest days. “I was astonished to see Nikie’s image in the church.” As he stood back and watched, others looked at Nikie’s photograph. A stoic and courageous dog, he wore his vest, patch and American flag. The photo was taken during one of the last memorial ceremonies on Ground Zero. A soldier was saluting Nikie as a gesture of honor and gratitude.