9/11 rescue dog receives stem cell therapy

A dog that served as a search and rescue canine in the aftermath of 9/11 has a new lease on life today.

Red is one of the few 9/11 rescue dogs that is still alive today. (Photo credit: Fox News)

Red, a black Labrador Retriever, was starting to have mobility and pain management issues at her advanced age. At 12 years old, arthritis made it difficult for Red to hop up onto the sofa, much less perform her search and rescue service duties.

Her owner and handler, Heather Roche, retired Red in July 2011. “She still wants to work, but her body just can’t do it anymore,” Roche said.

Roche and Red were search and rescue partners following the September 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon. The pair was deployed to the Pentagon site on September 16, 2001. It was Red’s first official search and rescue operation; she was just under 2 years of age at the time.

“The search and rescue dogs at the Pentagon are credited with finding 70 percent of the human remains,” Roche explained. “That helped a whole lot of those families actually get closure.”

Roche and Red also served as a search and rescue team after Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita.

Now Red is the one receiving the help thanks to a generously donated stem cell procedure. The company that developed the progressive stem cell regenerative therapy, Medivet America, donated the procedure and the cost of cryogenically storing additional stem cells for future use. Dr. John Herrity of Burke Animal Clinic donated his services, performing the surgery and stem cell injections.

The entire procedure normally costs over $2,000, but Dr. Herrity was glad to give his time for Red. “This is a small something that we can give back as a way of saying thanks for what you guys have done for us,” Dr. Herrity told Roche and Red.

The innovative therapy Red received was designed to help large breed senior dogs with arthritis, ligament damage, degenerative joint diseases, and hip dysplasia. Stem cells are extracted from the anesthetized dog, processed, and then injected into the dog’s inflamed arthritic joints. “We are just taking fat from Red’s side and then we are going to spin it down, process it, extract the stem cells from there,” Dr. Herrity explained.

Red is one of the few 9/11 search and rescue canines still alive today. Two other service dogs that helped in the recovery efforts after 9/11 also received the donated stem cell procedure recently. Last November, 15-year-old black Labrador Retriever Bailey received stem cell therapy, followed by Hoke, a 14-year-old yellow Lab, in December.

It’s so far, so good with Red after her procedure. “Hopefully in about two to three months, she will be more comfortable, moving around, wanting to play more,” Dr. Herrity said.