In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center a group of twenty-seven dogs braved the hazards of the world’s biggest pile of toxic rubble for a collective total of just over 15,000 hours.

Though other dogs sporadically joined them in their labors, these 27 were monitored as part of a collaborative study undertaken by the Animal Medical Center in New York. Their acute injuries, environmental toxin exposure and long-term (five-year) health were reported in a paper in the July 1st edition of JAVMA (Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association).

Fatigue, lacerations, dehydration, respiratory symptoms and decreased appetite were recorded in the initial stages of their work, when caustic quantities of dust choked the site and the frenzy to uncover survivors was first in full swing.

Yet toxicology reports of their hair and blood were unremarkable. And later, when their long-term health effects were noted, they were found to be minimal.

It’s great news. None of the dogs died as a result of their service roles. Indeed, 21 were still alive after five years, six having succumbed to natural causes not considered relevant to the study. None of the dogs succumbed to the debilitating chronic respiratory diseases akin to those some Ground Zero workers have reported.

All in all, these dogs have dodged a massive bullet, it would seem. So we should rejoice in this minor miracle, right? 

But what does their survival in excellent condition (save the relatively minor acute injuries they suffered in the initial stages) mean to us as citizens of a 9/11 attack-besieged nation?

Does it showcase the resilience of a nation capable of handling even the worst of crises with heart, health and vigor?

I guess it would if the findings of this study weren’t likely to be used to discredit the chronic health conditions suffered by some of the human WTC site workers.

I don’t know how we as a nation should handle the claims of individuals who report debilitating respiratory effects after months of Ground Zero cleanup, but I do know one thing: I would hate to see this study assist in the invalidation of their claims, financial or otherwise.

So doing would smack of the same hypocrisy and self-serving public policy that plagues us in other areas. Our dogs’ salubrious legacy doesn’t deserve to be twisted into the service of such exculpatory thinking, science or no science. After all, dogs are not people. And they don’t have families to feed.