The VigilanceVoice
Thursday-- April 25, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 226

Some Heroes Have Fleas
Cliff McKenzie
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

        GROUND ZERO, New York City, April 25-- Some heroes don't speak.  They just scratch at fleas between saving lives.
         One such hero is a guy named Sirius.
         He is one of 60 million dogs in the United States, but to some, he is the number one combat canine.
         Sirius was killed in the September 11 World Trade Center disaster.  He died protecting the building from Terrorists.  He was a bomb-sniffing K9 with the Port Authority Police Department, on duty to sniff all vehicles for explosives entering the Twin Towers loading dock.  Like so many that day, he perished in an act of Vigilance.
        His memorial was held yesterday at Liberty State Park in New Jersey.  Over 100 different K-9 units from throughout the United States attended.  It was a tribute not just to a brave dog, but also a salute to all the heroes of Nine Eleven who gave their lives in the line of duty.  Sirius was the only dog to die in the holocaust of the Second Tuesday of September, 2001.
        I desperately wanted to go the memorial, but became aware of it after it had begun and couldn't reach the location in time to offer my thanks and to issue my prayers for Sirius.   However, I was glad I remembered to remember him.   And I was happy to know that all the Sentinels of Vigilance who died that day have a great dog to keep them alert in their eternal search to protect us all from Terrorism's dark, twisted shadow.
       Law enforcement has been using dogs to help them in many ways. I wanted to know about the power of a dog's nose.  Even though I had many dogs as pets, I never really understood the depth of their sniffing ability.  So I searched and came up with this information.
       The dog's nose is incredibly sensitive due to an highly developed olfactory sense.  Dogs can detect some odors at the miniscule concentration of one part per trillion.  The anatomy of the dog's nose sheds light on why they are so adept at detecting smells. 
         A dog inhales sharply or sniffs when smelling to create swirling currents of air inside the nasal cavity.  The odors are carried to the olfactory cells which detect the smells.  Dogs have about 150 million of these cells compared to humans' 5 million.  Dogs also have a nasal cavity volume 4 times that of ours.  The external part of the dog's nose is bathed in mucus helping to entrap and detect odors such as the bombs Sirius was trained to detect. 
       Dogs have 100-150 cilia per olfactory cell compared to our mere 6-8 cilia per cell. A cilia is a small hairlike element that lines the nasal cavity.  Whoever created dogs, knew they would come in handy against Terrorists.
                                   * * *
       My appreciation for Sirius has deep roots.  I grew up with dogs.
       They were my best friends.  Often, my only friends.
      I was a lonely child, turned inward by a feeling of alienation by my parents' lack of interest in who I was and what I was or what I could be--a common feeling among many children.  It is the Terror of being a child--to be alone in the presences of others. 
       My mother and father were divorced when I was a baby, and I never accepted my step-father or felt an integral part of the "new family."   My dogs became my family. They were boxers and slept with me, played with me and comforted the emptiness I felt inside that I was a "third wheel" in the family unit, the bastard child of my mother.
      I would train them to do certain tricks, especially "war dog" tricks like the "combat crawl."  My favorite canine pal, Casey, would crawl on his belly to my hand signals, roll over, and attack the pant leg of anyone I chose to sic him on.   I would invite "friends" over to my house to play with him, and tell them to run and then sic my bodyguard on them.   Casey would rush after them and grab their pant leg and shake them to the ground.  I would pretend they were the "enemy" and I was a great K-9 solider and my trusty dog and I were heroes, saving the world from evil.
      Quickly, I ran out of friends.  Few enjoyed the dog's slobbering face standing over them, growling so they couldn't get up once they were down.   I never taught any of my dogs to bite, just to threaten.   If one of my buddies slept over, my dogs would try and root them out of the bed and sleep next to me.  It made me feel good, knowing I was loved so jealously, so unconditionally.
       As a man, my wife knew I loved dogs.  After we were married and had children, she got me my "dream dog," a mix between a Siberian husky and a Malamute.   I named him Zonka after watching Larry Csonka bash through the line in a Super Bowl game.  Zonka became my "man dog."   We wrestled and played, and, since I was traveling frequently in business, he became my Sentinel of Vigilance guarding my children and wife when I was away.   He was eighty plus-pounds of tough, macho dog who loved the children and our cats and would die for us with his last gasp of  air.
      His death came at low point in my life.  I missed him as one might miss a brother, a soul mate, a buddy who had been through Hell with you and never left your side, who put everything in his heart for you first and who never once asked for anything in return.  Well, that's not true.  Occasionally I would put a chocolate chip on his nose and trained him to not move until I gave him the command.  Then he would toss his huge snout up and the chocolate chip would fly in the air.  He would leap up and snag it in his powerful jaws. (Warning--I know it is not good to give dogs chocolate...bad for their heart...but one chip every now and then was within reason)
      Sirius' memorial was not just a salute to another fallen hero, but a reminder to me of the linkage between man and dog, woman and dog, children and dog.   I felt the loyalty and trust I experienced between my many dogs and myself was akin to the feelings those who believe in God have with their Creator.   I was always reversing the letters of G-O-D in my mind, enjoying the fact they spelled D-O-G.   It was, to me, the definition of unconditional love.
      Sirius' partner must have felt a great loss when his dog died last September.   I wanted to share in the experience of that feeling at the memorial, so I did the next best thing.  I searched all the information I could find on Sirius at to learn the details of both the love between the fallen canine hero and his partner, Port Authority Police Office David Kim, and the events surrounding Sirius' death.
       Sirius was a five-year-old yellow Labrador retriever.   He sniffed hundreds of trucks at the loading platform of the World Trade Center for bombs each day.  He went home with David Kim at night, and was part of the officer's family as well as his working buddy.
       When the first plane hit the building, Officer Kim put Sirius in his cage, told him he'd be back, and rushed up to help wounded and trapped survivors.   The building collapsed as he was helping others, and he miraculously escaped death.  But his partner, buddy and pal didn't.
        On January 22nd rescue workers found the remains.   Officer Kim rushed to Ground Zero.   All the giant equipment was shut down for a moment of silence as Officer Kim removed the body with full tribute to the fallen hero.   Everyone at the site saluted as the flag-draped body of Sirius was carried past the workers, firemen and police.
        Yesterday, K-9 units from all over the country attended the memorial.   Officer Kim was presented with Sirius' metal water bowl, a reminder of his presence even after death.  Thirty-seven Port Authority Police personnel died during the Terrorist attack, the largest number of police loss from any single unit in the history of the country.
        Officer Lim has a new dog, a 2-year-old black Labrador retriever named Sprig.  He and his new partner have been reassigned to work as an officer at the Holland Tunnel, protecting it from potential Terrorist attacks.
        I thought a lot about Sirius yesterday.   The dog's name comes the brightest star in the sky second only to our own sun.  The star, Sirius, is called the "dog star" because it is part of the Orion constellation.  It represents Orion's larger hunting dog constellation forming what astronomers call Canis Major, the Greater Dog.
        Indeed, Sirius was a star.  He even had his picture taken with President Bill Clinton a few years ago. Sirius was there to insure the President wasn't vulnerable to any bombs.
        To me, Sirius represents the unconditional love of any animal who becomes bonded with a human.   Animals love with a purity when they are treated with kindness and respect.   They symbolize the ultimate in affection, loyalty, dedication and courage.
        The other day I saw a small mouthful of a dog yelping and growling at a huge pit bull, and laughed to myself.  The pit bull in one swipe with its head could have vacuumed the furry ball into its jaws and crunched it with one bite.  Instead, it backed away, aware the feisty little one would give its life to protect its owner.  Vigilance comes in small packages as well as big ones.
        When I look up into the sky from now on, I'm going to search for the "dog star."   Since I believe the spirits of those who died on September 11 are still alive and well, standing guard over us, reminding us that it is our duty and responsibility to individually Pledge ourselves to Vigilance, I will think of Sirius as I gaze upward.
        I will see him running around and sniffing and being petted by the thousands who died that day, guarding the horizons for signs of Terrorism--the presence of Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.
        When he sniffs these elements of Terrorism, I want to keep my ears open for his bark, his warning for me to pull out my Courage, my Conviction and my Action to defuse the bomb of Terrorism that ticks like a clock inside all human beings, waiting for the right moment to explode and cripple us emotionally.  Sirius will be there to remind me to be wary.
        I will also think of all the children who go to bed at night alone, disenfranchised from their parents, abused, scared of the dark, oppressed because they do not feel loved the way they want to be loved because their parents are either too busy or neglectful to recognize the loneliness of the child's heart.  Or, they are carrying in their hearts a great secret, some fear of others who may have molested or threatened them, or told them they were ugly or fat, or no good, and they are afraid to share that with their parents.
        I will ask Sirius to crawl in bed with them; to snuggle up next to them and lay his head upon their chest to comfort their fears, to let them know they are loved unconditionally and to listen to their secret fears so they can sleep in peace.  
        I know Sirius will not sleep.  He will keep his eyes and ears and his very special nose alert, sniffing for the shadows of the night that try and attack a child's well-being, that drive him or her into a cave of Terror.
       But I will sleep.   I will sleep knowing the K-9 Sentinel of Vigilance is protecting the future of our children.

Note:  The following link will take you to more information on Sirius' memorial:


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