TAMPA — In 2001, Marley spent seven grim days amid the jumble of concrete, ash, glass shards and twisted steel that had been the World Trade Center, searching for any signs of life.
The black Labrador had been trained for just such life-saving missions by Capt. Mark Bogush of Tampa Fire Rescue. To the dog, it was all a game. Using her nose, eyes and ears won her treats.
All she found in New York were remains — corpses, body parts and belongings that may have held sentimental value.
Over the course of a decade, in the aftermath of Sept. 11, in Biloxi after Hurricane Katrina, in Port Charlotte after Charley slammed through, rescue crews called upon her honed senses.
But she never got that ultimate reward, she never found a survivor.
Still, Marley kept trying, even after retiring in 2006.
And now her search has ended. The 12-year-old died Wednesday.
Marley came down very suddenly with gastric dilatation-volvulus, or canine bloat, and had to be euthanized. Surgery would only have worsened her quality of life, Bogush said Friday.
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Marley came to the Bogush family by accident, he said. In 1996, she was a rambunctious puppy terrorizing a couple with a new baby, and Bogush heard she needed a home.
"They brought her to me, and they were crossing the street, and I saw that she was dragging them across the street and I said, 'That one? I'll take her.'"
From there, Bogush took Marley home to meet his two children, ages 7 and 2, and he knew he was stuck with her. The name came with the dog, by the way, unrelated to the Lab celebrated in the book and movie Marley and Me.
For a while, life was rough.
"She loved being outside, and there were a few times when she would take off running down the street and we'd have to chase her down," Bogush said.
When she wasn't giving him a workout, she was chewing up shoes, remote controls and pillows. He wondered if she would ever be able to learn how to search for someone in a collapsed building.
"I used to get frustrated, but it was my fault because I wasn't communicating what I wanted her to do properly and she was just a confused little puppy," Bogush said.
Once, during her obedience training, Marley got out of the yard and stayed gone for two weeks. Bogush jokes about it now, saying he and his kids put up 'Wanted' posters and didn't hear anything until the owner of a nursery three miles away called and said she had Marley tied up.
"After that, security tightened up," Bogush laughed.
And in May 2001, after years of obedience training coupled with search-and-rescue training, Marley received her Federal Emergency Management Agency certification, becoming one of only 25 dogs in the nation with her expertise.
"But nobody cared," said Capt. Bill Wade, a spokesman for Tampa Fire Rescue.
Then two planes slammed into the World Trade Center.
After Marley and Bogush returned from seven days of 12-hour shifts searching the debris in New York, they arrived in Tampa to a hero's welcome.
She met Gen. Tommy Franks, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Mayor Pam Iorio on a whirlwind tour of awards ceremonies and memorials honoring the service of those who worked at Ground Zero.
And she was always kind, because Marley loved people.
But when it came to other dogs? Not so much.
"She was very territorial, always protecting the fire house," said Capt. Joe Billek.
Bogush said she had very few friends of her own species, but they included his 12-year-old chocolate Labrador, Cherub, and another search and rescue dog, Jessie, certified that same year, who also went to New York for the World Trade Center mission.
When she wasn't working, Marley loved to drop her ball into Lake Maureen, let it float away and then jump in after it, even diving to find it if it sank.
"She would do that until she got exhausted, rest a bit and then wait for you to come toss the ball for her," Bogush said.
After Marley and Jessie began Tampa Fire Rescue's search-and-rescue dog program, it expanded. There are now five FEMA-certified dogs with the department.
But new dogs never replaced Marley at the fire house on West Neptune Street and South Church Avenue.
"Once a new guy, who didn't know she was back there, let her out and we sent out all the engines and the Captain's car to find her," Bogush said.
"And that firefighter got threatened," Billek laughed. "If anything happened to her he was going to get it."
But it turned out to be a false alarm. She was just around the corner.
As she got older, the game of searching was never far from Marley's mind. Her hearing started to fade but her eyes and nose were as strong as ever.
"We'd scoot the kids around the corner and let her find them," Bogush said. And it wasn't all work all the time.
"She became just one big old lap dog, shedding up all over the house."
Marley is survived by Lt. Mark Bogush, his wife, Kim, and his three children.
And the men and women of Tampa Fire Rescue.
Robbyn Mitchell can be reached at (813) 226-3373 or [email protected]