Salty and Roselle

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Roselle with owner Michael Hingson and Omar Rivera with Salty

Salty and Roselle were two guide dogs who were with their owners in the World Trade Center during the September 11 attacks in New York City. They each guided their owners out of the burning towers before the buildings collapsed, feats which were later recognized when they were awarded the Dickin Medal by the British charity the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals.[1] Roselle went on to be posthumously named American Hero Dog of the Year 2011 by American Humane, and has a book written about her.


BreedLabrador Retriever
Born(1996-12-12)December 12, 1996
DiedMarch 28, 2008(2008-03-28) (aged 11)
Nation fromUnited States
OccupationGuide dog
Years active1998–2008
OwnerOmar Rivera
AppearanceYellow coat
AwardsDickin Medal
Partners in Courage award

Salty (December 12, 1996 – March 28, 2008) was trained as a guide dog in early 1998 by Guiding Eyes for the Blind in Yorktown Heights, New York.[2] Part of his training included taking trips on the New York City Subway and getting used to traffic in the Bronx. Omar Rivera was introduced to Salty by Salty's instructor, Caroline McCabe-Sandler.[2]

When the attacks occurred on September 11, 2001, Salty and his owner, Omar Rivera, found themselves on the 71st floor.[3] Rivera was working at the headquarters of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, in Tower 1 of the World Trade Center. After refusing to leave Rivera's side, Salty and Rivera's supervisor, Donna Enright, led him to safety.[4] About halfway down, a co-worker, trying to help, tried to take Salty's lead but the dog refused to leave Omar.[2]


BreedLabrador Retriever
Born(1998-03-12)March 12, 1998
San Rafael, California
DiedJune 26, 2011(2011-06-26) (aged 13)
Nation fromUnited States
OccupationGuide dog
Years active1999–2007
OwnerMichael Hingson
AppearanceYellow coat
AwardsDickin Medal
American Hero Dog of the Year 2011

Roselle (March 12, 1998 – June 26, 2011) was born in San Rafael, California, on March 12, 1998, at the Guide Dogs for the Blind. She was moved to Santa Barbara, California, to be raised by Kay and Ted Stern. After this she was returned to Guide Dogs for the Blind so that she could be trained as a guide dog.[5] Roselle and her owner, Michael Hingson, first met on November 22, 1999. She was Hingson's fifth guide dog.[6]

Roselle was asleep under her owner's desk on the 78th floor in Tower 1 of the World Trade Center when the attack commenced. She was awakened by American Airlines Flight 11 (which was hijacked by five Al-Qaeda terrorists including Mohamed Atta from Egypt) impacting some fifteen floors above them.[4] Roselle calmly helped Hingson to stairwell B, despite the smoke, confusion and noise surrounding her.[7]

She led her owner and 30 other people down 1,463 steps out of the tower. After descending over half the distance, they passed the firemen who were heading up, whom Roselle stopped to greet.[8] The descent took just over an hour. Just after they exited the tower, Tower 2 collapsed, sending debris flying.[9] Hingson later said, "While everyone ran in panic, Roselle remained totally focused on her job, while debris fell around us, and even hit us, Roselle stayed calm."[10] Once clear, Roselle led her owner to the safety of a subway station,[10] where they helped a woman who had been blinded by falling debris. Once they arrived home, Roselle immediately began playing with her retired guide dog predecessor, Linnie, as if nothing important had happened.[11]

After the attacks, Hingson changed careers from a computer salesman to working for the Guide Dogs for the Blind as Public Affairs Director. Hingson and Roselle appeared on numerous television shows including Larry King Live, the CBS Morning Show and Regis and Kelly. They also appeared on a float during the 2002 Rose Parade in Pasadena, CA.[6]

In 2004, Roselle was diagnosed with immune-mediated thrombocytopenia, but medications were able to control the condition. In March 2007 she retired from guiding after it was discovered that the medication was beginning to damage her kidneys. She continued to live with Hingson, who was assigned a new guide dog, Africa.[5] On June 24, 2011, Hingson suspected that something was wrong with Roselle and took her to her local vet, who diagnosed her with a stomach ulcer. Roselle died two days later on June 26, at 8:52 pm. In her memory, Hingson wrote a book of their 9/11 experience entitled Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero and set up Roselle's Dream Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation to raise money to help vision-impaired people engage more fully in everyday life.[6]

In 2020, the podcast This is Love spoke with Michael Hingson about his life with Roselle and their 9/11 experience.[12]

Dickin Medal, awards and other dedications[edit]

Salty and Roselle were awarded a joint Dickin Medal by the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals on March 5, 2002.[1] It was only the second time that a joint medal had been awarded, the first time to Punch and Judy, a pair of Boxers in 1946. Salty and Roselle's medal citation reads, "For remaining loyally at the side of their blind owners, courageously leading them down more than 70 floors of the World Trade Center and to a place of safety following the terrorist attack on New York on September 11, 2001."[1] This was not the only Dickin Medal to be awarded for actions related to the attacks; German Shepherd Apollo received a medal on behalf of all the work done by all search and rescue dogs following the attacks.[13] The Dickin Medal is often referred to as the animal metaphorical equivalent of the Victoria Cross.[14]

In addition to the Dickin Medal, Salty and Roselle were also each recognized by the British Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.[3] Salty and Roselle were awarded a 'Partners in Courage' award by the Guiding Eyes for the Blind association.[2] Roselle was posthumously named American Hero Dog of the Year in 2011 by the American Humane Society, beating seven other finalists in a public vote which saw more than 400,000 people vote.[10]

In 2009, Michael Gaither wrote and published a song titled "Roselle" about Roselle's life. It appeared on his album Dogspeed released in 2009.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Dickin Medal dogs". People's Dispensary for Sick Animals. Archived from the original on 12 February 2010. Retrieved 14 September 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d McCabe, Marsha (April 28, 2002). "Partners in courage". South Coast Today. Retrieved April 9, 2012.
  3. ^ a b "Twin Towers guide dogs honoured". CBBC Newsround. January 15, 2002. Retrieved April 9, 2012.
  4. ^ a b Choron, Harry; Choron, Sally (2005). Planet Dog. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. p. 95. ISBN 9780618517527. Salty and Roselle.
  5. ^ a b "About Roselle". Roselle Foundation. Retrieved April 9, 2012.
  6. ^ a b c "Death of an American Hero – Roselle The 9/11 Guide Dog". PRWeb. June 30, 2011. Retrieved April 9, 2012.
  7. ^ Hingson, Michael (September 6, 2011). "A Blind Man, His Guide Dog and Lessons Learned On 9/11". Fox News. Retrieved April 9, 2012.
  8. ^ "Remembering the Dogs of War". Marc the November 11, 2011. Retrieved April 9, 2012.
  9. ^ Giannangeli, Marco (September 11, 2011). "9/11: My Brave Guide Dog Led us to Safety in Tower Inferno". The Daily Express. Retrieved April 9, 2012.
  10. ^ a b c "Dog who saved owner on 9/11 named American Hero Dog". MSNBC. October 3, 2011. Archived from the original on October 4, 2011. Retrieved April 9, 2012.
  11. ^ "Rescue Dogs of 9/11: Roselle". Cesar's Way. Archived from the original on April 21, 2012. Retrieved April 9, 2012.
  12. ^ "Roselle and Michael". This is Love. April 15, 2020.
  13. ^ Menzies, Janet (February 25, 2010). "Help For Heroes: Gundog Class – Canine Heroes and the Dickin Medal". The Field. Retrieved April 9, 2012.
  14. ^ Long, David (2012). The animals' VC: for gallantry and devotion: the PDSA Dickin Medal - inspiring stories of bravery and courage. London: Preface. ISBN 9781848093768.
  15. ^ " Michael Gaither performing Roselle" - Live. on YouTube

Further reading[edit]

  • Hingson, Michael (2011). Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero. Thomas Nelson. ISBN 978-1400203048.

External links[edit]