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I Am With You, No Matter What: The Story of Salty


An unexpected example of this kind of commitment came from a guide dog named "Salty." On 9-11, Salty was one of two guide dogs who guided their blind owners out of the World Trade Center to safety.


Please listen to part of the testimony from Salty’s owner, Omar Rivera:


"Trust, -- that is the most important thing in a relationship with a guide dog. They give everything they have for almost nothing, just for love.


"9/11 was a normal day. Salty and I, we started our day very early, cuz I needed to prepare for a meeting. So I got to the Trade Center early, around 7. We grabbed my elevator, got to the 44th floor, and then switched and go all the way up to the 71st floor. Salty was very obedient, so he didn't even need to be tied down.


"I needed to print some documents out. I was just preparing my papers. It was about 8:44. Salty was asleep. I remember I put the command 'print,' and 30 seconds later, I heard this 'WOW-POW.' Salty started running, and the building went 'puhk, puhk' (making the sound and showing the motion of the building swaying back and forth). Computer went down (on the floor). There was this huge wind and smoke.


"I really got very scared, because there were only a couple of people who knew that I was there. Salty was running back and forth, absolutely berserk. We used to be instructed that you should stay in your place, wait for announcements, so I hesitated. Should I stay? Should I go?


"But then he came back, and he just sat next to me, completely anxious. I realize he's telling me something. I have to get out of here. So I put the harness on him, and we run to the nearest stairs. They were really bad, everybody screaming. It was full of smoke, very hot. People were basically beginning to panic.


"After a few minutes, everybody kind of relaxed, and the movement going down became very slow, because there were people from other floors getting into the stairs, so you needed to wait and let people get in.


"The stair was very narrow. With a dog, you need to have a space like for two people, or three. The policemen and the firemen were moving up, and I am going down with a guide dog that has not enough space. It all was too much for him. I said, 'Well, Salty, maybe it is better for you to go.' So I decided to let Salty be completely free.


"Salty continued his way down. Then at one point he decided 'No. I can not go without him.' So he came back. He was telling me, 'I am with you. No matter what, I am with you. You and I together, and that’s no question. Don’t even ask me. Don’t even send me back. I’m gonna be with you.'"


"On the stairs, I can hear the structure go 'pop, pop, pop.' The whole building was basically collapsing. We were able to reach the ground level and outward. And five minutes later, we crossed the street and for a moment we stopped. I didn’t see anything, but I heard everything, -- people screaming, crying, -- helicopters, -- ambulances, -- fire trucks. It was amazing. It was a hundred million sounds concentrated in one place.


"Suddenly I hear (spoken rapidly), 'pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, pa-skooo.' The building came down. I start running, Salty next to me, like I was completely tight with his harness, like he was just opening the area, trying to open my path. We keep running, running, running. There were thousands of people.


"Even today when I hear the ambulances or fire trucks, I get a little anxious, and Salty was the same way. Even he, himself, developed some kind of fear after 9/11.


"Salty worked for me for ten years, and in March, 2008 we didn’t have a choice but to put him to sleep. I start working with this guy (his new dog), but Salty will remain in my heart forever. Maybe one day there will be another Salty for somebody else, but I hope not for the same purpose, of taking people out of terrible things like the destruction of the World Trade Center. (In tears) I’m sorry"


"GEB Guide Dog Salty and Omar Rivera at WTC on 9/11" (Testimony from Omar Rivera in "Where Were You" on the NTGEO Channel as part of their ten year remembrance of 9/11) Posted on YouTube by ers54va - www.youtube.com/watch?v=3plODb9Xd4c

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