NYPD German Shepherd Dog Appollo’s coup—the 2001 ACE Award for Canine Excellence in Law Enforcement—was scheduled to be announced on September 11. Instead, he and his partner, Officer Peter Davis, were called into action. “We got there right after the buildings collapsed. To get to the rubble, we had to go through almost waist-deep water. All of a sudden he disappeared, fell into a hole. Then this big fireball comes up and he comes running out. He was on fire. I brushed off the burning embers and he went right back to searching.”
By age 9, when most police dogs have already retired to their handler’s sofa, the big guy was working the pile. His thick coat singed by red-hot metal, his paws cracked and bruised by acres of jagged concrete, bone weary from days of double shifts, Appollo plodded through the rubble, searching in vain for the living.
When hope was lost, when Davis had to accept that even his mighty Appollo would not find a survivor, the tenacious shepherd had to be literally pulled from the debris. Whoever coined the phrase “working like a dog” must have known Appollo. It was typical of his doggedness that he clung to life for so long, before death overtook him at age 14.
Some of us from AKC staff were invited to observe K-9 Officer Pete Davis and his grizzled ACE winner search the rubble. To those who were privileged to witness it, Appollo’s work at the World Trade Center site was his defining moment.
This article was originally published in "The ACE Files" column of AKC Family Dog.