TAMPA — Three years after retiring, Jessie, a search and rescue dog that sniffed for signs of life in the rubble of the World Trade Center, has died.
She had been living with an adopted family, Al and Sandy Tupper, when she succumbed to illness Sunday night, Tampa Fire Rescue officials confirmed in a Tuesday news release.
The 13-year-old yellow Labrador retriever joined Fire Rescue as a partner to Lt. Roger Picard, who helped her achieve the highest levels of search and rescue certification with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Jessie and Picard became members of the Florida Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 2 and the FEMA canine team in May 2001. Their first deployment was to the World Trade Center in New York City after the Sept. 11 attacks.
After that, she went from one disaster to another, aiding in the search for survivors and remains. Jessie was deployed to Punta Gorda after Hurricane Charley in 2004, and Biloxi, Miss., after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
"She was a great search dog and taught me to be a better handler. After years of work in areas too dangerous for human rescuers, she went into a well-deserved retirement," Picard said in a statement.
He lauded her adoptive family, the Tuppers, for the love they gave the aging dog. "Jessie provided them with companionship and laughter," he said.