Louisiana dog helps in search for victims

MEAUX, LA -- Insee is a joyful dog, full of love and a boundless enthusiasm for life.

It is ironic that part of his job is looking for death.

The 2-year-old German shepherd is trained to find survivors and victims in cave-ins. Insee is Thai for ''eagle,'' a lucky name.

When his owners, Louis and Amore Wardroup of Meaux, heard about the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, they immediately called an FBI agent they knew to see if they could help.

They were told they were needed.

The Wardroups packed up their rescue equipment and their dog and headed to the East Coast right away.

After 22 hours of straight driving, they arrived in Virginia, but the crews working at the Pentagon didn't need any help, so they were sent on to New York.

When they arrived, they started working amid the rubble of the World Trade Center towers; rescue workers were calling it ''The landfill.''

''We were working in the ribs,'' Louis Wardroup said, referring to the skeletal frame of the towers that has been shown often on television over the past two weeks.

''We were right there where a firetruck had been buried.''

They were hoping to find live victims, but found none.

Insee located body parts and blood in various areas, but no living victims.

Finding bodies doesn't bother Insee, because he doesn't know what it means, Wardroup said.

''He thinks its a game,'' Wardroup explains. ''He's looking for a scent, that's all. This doesn't traumatize him.''

Wardroup, on the other hand, had to steel himself to what he might find in the rubble.

''We had time, driving up there, to prepare ourselves,'' he said.

''I try to think of it like this: it's not a person we're finding, because what made them a person is already gone. It's just a shell that's left. Mentally, that lets you work with it.''

Working at the site of such devastation and loss took its toll, he said.

He found a firefighter's hand in the rubble, with another firefighter standing there as the hand was unearthed.

''He was a great, big guy, and he was just bawling. He was crying like a baby,'' Louis said.

''He couldn't talk, but he mouthed the words: 'Thank you. Thank you, and thank the dog.' That's the stuff that made it personal, even though we tried to make it not personal.''

''It was the good stuff that was tearing you up; the bad stuff we were ready for.''

A large part of ''the good stuff'' was supplied by New Yorkers.

The Wardroups were stationed at a staging area set up on a pier, so they had to drive back and forth between the pier and the site for each shift of searching.

Barricades were set up there, and lining those barricades were hundreds of New Yorkers.

''The people were just standing there, cheering and waving signs,'' he said. ''The people were so united, so together. They were there all the time. It didn't matter what time you went or came back, they were still out there.''

''It didn't matter if it was cold, lightning, raining; it didn't matter,'' Amore added. ''They were always there.''

After working in the rubble for hours, visiting the people at the barricades helped Wardroup get centered again.

''We really enjoyed walking the barricades, letting them talk to the dog,'' he said. ''Those people didn't realize how much they helped us.''

When they returned to the staging area after each shift, a crew of veterinarians descended on Insee. They dried him off, cleaned out his ears and nose, gave him water and food, and checked the pads of his paws for cuts.

The Wardroups never wanted for anything, Amore Wardroup said.

''Everyone was so nice to us,'' she said. ''Everything you could want, they took care of everything, meals, accommodations, hospitality. We really appreciate the (New York Police Department) and all they did for us.''

He said restaurateurs brought in food in shopping carts to hand out to rescue workers; volunteers handed out water or sports drinks and huge bags of dog food appeared on his truck.

''Every time we got back to the truck, there was more stuff there,'' he said. ''Dog food, toys, underwear, socks, dog boots, everything.''

The Salvation Army and the Red Cross would ''chase you down the street to make sure you had what you needed,'' he said.

When they drove the truck to the site, the people on the barricades threw supplies into the windows, he said.

Late last week, Insee was still wearing a bandanna he got from a barricade friend.

''This 90-year-old woman came up to the barricade with a walker, and she gave him the bandanna for good luck,'' Louis said. ''The people there were just phenomenal. That's the part we weren't ready for.''