Ocean Beach DOG
Bear - Hero of Ground Zero
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Webmaster's note: It has come to my attention that some of the representations made by Scott Shields in the following account are either false or misleading. Nonetheless, I have chosen to leave the story in place for the following reason: The story is not about Scott Shields. Rather, it is about the countless search and rescue canines who do their duty, i.e., rescuing man, without any notoriety. Treat this as a fictional account, if you will, but please keep in mind that the depicted acts of selflessness and bravery are common, everyday occurrences, brought to you with love and compassion from man's best friend. So please, do take a read. Help us celebrate dogs, the true heroes of 9/11, 9/12, 9/13,...

It was there at Ground Zero that we met Captain Scott Shields and his dog Theodore. Captain Scott Shields was one of the first people along with his search rescue dog Bear into ground zero. Bear was an 11 year old Golden Retriever and helped greatly in the rescue efforts at the World Trade Center. Bear was the first dog on the scene.

 

There have been 100's of stories written about the heroism displayed at ground zero in the harrowing moments that will be forever frozen in time, following the attacks on the World Trade Center. Fire, police, emergency management professionals were joined by ordinary citizens in the country's hour of need. Perhaps one of the most poignant stories is that of "Bear." Captain Scott Shields has vividly recaptured those moments in a book entitled "Bear, Heart of a Hero."

 

Captain Shields was trained in marine emergency and national disaster management by the U.S. Coast Guard, National Guard, FEMA and The Red Cross. Upon seeing the live broadcast of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center Towers, Scott jumped into his car and made the frantic trek to N.Y.C in record breaking time. By his side was his beloved dog Bear. Little did Shields realize that he and Bear would be the first canine team to arrive at Ground Zero. Nor could he imagine the extraordinary measures that Bear would take in the search and rescue efforts. Bear placed himself in harms way. He cared very little for his own safety.

 

When called upon by his beloved master, Bear would respond to Shield's command to "Find the Baby". One of the very first victims Bear found was the body of FDNY Chief Peter Ganci Jr.


Bear and Captain Shields arrived at the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan just 38 minutes after the second plane crashed into the Twin Towers. Once there, the pair worked straight through the night and into the following morning. According to firemen on the scene, Bear was the only search-and-rescue dog known to be working the entire west side of the site for approximately six or seven hours following the tragedy. Through the initial days of rescue efforts, Bear worked an exhausting eighteen hours per day searching for survivors and victims, often being hoisted into sunken pockets of rubble, glass and metal to look for bodies.  

 

Bear's valiant participation at the World Trade Center in September of 2001, however, did not leave him unscathed. The long hours and hard work took its toll. Bear's back was injured by a jagged piece of metal on the first night but, after being treated at a triage center on the site, he went straight back to work. Later, the area around this wound would become cancerous and his weight would drop from 110 pounds to 64 pounds. In all, Bear spent over a year in and around the smoldering site which had once been the location of New York City's World Trade Center...bringing a smile to otherwise grim faces and buoying flagging spirits with a wag of his tail.

 

Sadly, Bear passed away on September 23, 2002, six weeks short of his thirteenth birthday. He had been suffering for some time with the effects of multiple forms of cancer...at first thought to be an arthritic condition, although Bear's autopsy later revealed that he did not have arthritis. During the last year of his life, Bear appeared at many fund-raising events in the Greater New York area and received countless accolades for his lifetime of courageous work. After his death, the gentle and gallant Golden Retriever was honored with a funeral as a New York City Firefighter. His body was transported by an FDNY Aviation Company from the New York Animal Medical Center to the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery Crematorium and his ashes taken home by Captain Shields who keeps them in a plain gold box adorned with a plaque which records Bear's date of birth, date of death and is inscribed with the words: "Bear Shields, Hero of the World Trade Center."

 

On October 13, 2002, the State Senate passed a proclamation making that day "Captain Scott Shields and Bear Day" in New York. On October 27, 2002, the USS Intrepid hosted a memorial service for Bear beside the Sea-Air-Space Museum in Manhattan. Hundreds of people and a few dozen dogs attended the ceremony. An officer played “Taps”, an opera singer sang "Ava Maria" and a fly-by missing man formation was provided by Flight Across America. It was a fitting goodbye to a relentless and untiring hero, but perhaps the best tribute that can be paid to Bear is one which came from Firefighter Jean Paul Augier in a Comcast interview on the second afternoon at ground zero. He described how Bear was "phenomenal" and "amazing", working as hard as any human on the site and never hesitating to climb up over pieces of steel and crushed concrete. "How much do you credit Bear with?" Firefighter Augier was asked. He replied with one word..."Everything!"

Afterword

 

Bear's Accomplishments:

 

         Bear and his dad, Captain Scott Shields, led the first search teams at Ground Zero

         Found FDNY Chief Peter Ganci and Fire Commissioner William Feehan

         Honored as a “Hero to Humanity” by The United Nations and his portrait hung there for the World Peace Month (2003)

         Three states declared “Captain Shields and Bear Days” (N.Y., Oct 13th, CT. July 9th, N.J. Sept 21)

         Bear was asked to lead the 2002 Columbus Day Parade in New York City

         Honored by United States Army for Extraordinary Service to Humanity

         Fought much publicized battle to win insurance for all 9/11 dogs

         Was wounded at Ground Zero and died one year later of multiple forms of cancer

         Buried as a New York City fireman and his memorial service attended by thousands on the USS Intrepid in New York Harbor. A missing man formation flown in his honor

         The first rescue canine to be honored by the FDNY-EMS Academy in Fort Totten, New York on September 11th 2004. Bear’s name is etched into a brick that is part of the permanent memorial to the fallen heroes of 9/11.

         Honored in the 108th Congress as a Hero to the people of the United States

         The British Army honored Bear seven times while he was alive.  When he passed the Band of the 1st Battalion of the Scots Guards wrote a pipe song “Lament for the Golden Bear” in his honor that is now part of British Martial Music.

         Prestigious law firm Proskauer Rose established The Bear Search and Rescue Foundation in Bear’s Honor to raise money for search and rescue teams across the country (2002)

         A biography, Bear: Heart of a Hero (The Story of America’s Most Decorated Dog) by Captain Scott Shields and Nancy M. West was published in 2003 by Hero Dog Publications

(160 pp, $15.95 available: www.herodogpublications.com)

Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, U.N. Messenger of Peace said Bear: Heart of a Hero was, “the best human/animal relationship story I ever read.”

         Bear has been honored hundreds of other times for a complete list contact Hero Dog Publications.  His greatest honor is that his mission lives on in the Bear Search & Rescue Foundation paying to train and equip search & rescue teams throughout the United States “so that others may live”! For more information go to: www.bearsearchandrescue.org


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