Skyy and I wish to pay homage to Cowboy! Just look at his story below…another amazing hero!
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) – We have seen the anniversary stories about 9/11. Each is of tragedy and each involves heroes. This is the story of a man and his dog. We first met them right after September 11, 2001. We never forgot them so we went back to find the man. This update and remembrance is special and, definitely, ‘Wirth Watching’.
We all saw the pictures from New York City, Washington DC and Shanksville, PA. They united a country. And first responders became the new symbol of America.
Well after 9-11 it was a story of tributes and a story of heroes. For one Salt Lake man, it was a really special hero. A friend. The man is Dave Richards. The friend was a dog named ‘Cowboy’.
After the attacks of that day, within what seemed like just a few hours, they were at ground zero. ‘Cowboy’ and four other Utah dogs were indeed first responders. Among the best rescue dogs around.
Dave Richards remembers, “When we would ride the bus every morning from the Jacob Javits Center down to the World Trade Center, New Yorkers would be in the middle of the street with signs and flags supporting the efforts at the world trade center.”
For years, back in Utah, they had trained and trained at local construction sites and dumps with other rescue dogs for this kind of a calamity. Something about Dave and ‘Cowboy’ became very special, almost magical.
Richards says, “I think he knew. I think he spoke English. I could tell him anything I could…Get down from there and go there. Don’t do that just wait here for a second. It wasn’t, Stay!”
In a story we did 15 years ago, ‘Cowboy’ showed he could find the scent of a buried reporter in 20 seconds. But in New York it was the real thing. It was walking on top of beams that were still hot from the explosions. And over fires from the smoldering debris.
Dave told me, “I think about what he thought we were doing. You know, he didn’t know the trade centers had come down. He just showed up at this stinky pile of crap and concrete but he was the same dog. It was just like what are we doing today.”
The two looked for a miracle of life in the rubble. But there were no miracles. Just more rubble.
In our chat of 15 years ago, Dave remarked about how ‘Cowboy’ would never give up. And how he never balked at the challenge. Richards said, “He doesn’t have gloves and knee pads and hard hat. He just has what God gave him and he is giving his all in conditions without a respirator and working his butt off.”
For 8 days, they searched and searched. It was demoralizing to know there weren’t any people alive, just bodies. But it was in these conditions where ‘Cowboy’ seemed to sense he might have a unique gift that could bring some moments of calmness and relief to the responders.
Dave says, “If there was a stick on the ground or a ball he would grab it and flick it at you. So these firefighters sitting down all exhausted in a row outside the pile he would come up to them and he would look at them, pick up something and flick it at them and it would whiz past their heads, they loved it so they would find things for him to flick. He helped bring some sanity to the situation because it was pretty bazaar, it was pretty sobering when you got there.”
There was only one ‘Cowboy’. He would go on to work in Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
But like all heroes, they become lost to the ages. Cancer had set into the little sheep dog. Just as they had spent all the other days, Dave would spend cowboy’s last day together as one. “I took him to Sugarhouse Park and we spent the whole day laying on a blanket just watching the world go by.” A difficult world that cowboy made better, as a hero.
At the time, Dave and Cowboy trained with the Rocky Mountain Rescue Dogs. Three other dogs went to New York from Utah to join dozens of others from throughout the county. The last 9/11 dog died this past spring…. All heroes.