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Salty and Roselle: American Hero Dog of the Year 2011

American Hero Dog of the Year 2011

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 they collapsed, feats which were later recognized when they were awarded the Dickin Medal by the British charity the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals. Roselle went on to be posthumously named American Hero Dog of the Year 2011 by American Humane, and has a book written about her.

Dickin Medal, awards and other dedications

Salty and Roselle were awarded a joint Dickin Medal by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals on March 5, 2002. 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.”

This was not the only Dickin Medal to be awarded for actions related to the attacks; German Shepherd Appollo received a medal on behalf of all the work done by all search and rescue dogs following the attacks. The Dickin Medal is often referred to as the animal metaphorical equivalent of the Victoria Cross.

Salty and Roselle guide dog


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. 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.

When the attacks occurred on September 11, 2001, Salty and his owner, Omar Rivera, found themselves on the 71st floor. 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. About halfway down, a co-worker, trying to help, tried to take Salty’s lead but the dog refused to leave Omar.


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. Roselle and her owner, Michael Hingson, first met on November 22, 1999. She was Hingson’s fifth guide dog.

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 the plane impacting some fifteen floors above them. Roselle calmly helped Hingson to stairwell B, despite the smoke, confusion and noise surrounding her.

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