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The last 9/11 rescue dog has died and now we've got something in our eyes

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In the horrific aftermath of September 11th, over three hundred rescue dogs roamed the ash-coated rubble and twisted steel beams of Ground Zero in search for survivors.

The dogs worked 12 hour days for two weeks straight, using their powerful noses to aid firemen and police.

And on Monday afternoon, the last of those search dogs died, just shy of her 17th birthday.

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This is Bretagne (pronounced “Brittany”), a valiant golden retriever who has just been put to sleep after health complications.

After suffering kidney failure, her owner Denise Corliss realised it was time to say goodbye.

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But the firefighters at the Cy-Fair Fire Department in Bretagne’s home town of Harris County, Texas, weren’t about to let her go without a hero’s goodbye.

They lined the path up to Fairfield Animal Hospital as Denise walked her in to be put to sleep, saluting her along the way.

"This was a very small way for us to pay tribute to a dog who truly has been a hero," Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department Captain David Padovan told TODAY. "Just because she's a K9 doesn't make her any less part of our department than any other member."

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9/11 was only the first of many national disasters that called Bretagne into action.

She was deployed at Hurrican Katrina, Rita and other storms, and she regularly risked her own safety.

According to Corliss, she was also something of a therapy dog for the anguished rescue workers. They’d pet her, and share their harrowing stories of lost friends and loved ones. "Dogs can be so comforting, so it makes sense to me now," she says. "I just didn't anticipate that, then."

But the decision had to be made after Bretagne stopped eating. "She was really anxious last night and she just wanted to be with me," Corliss told TODAY on Monday. "So I laid down with her, right next to her. When she could feel me, she could settle down and go to sleep. I slept with her like that all night."

Bretagne made national news at age 15 when she returned to Ground Zero with Corliss for the first time since the 2001 terrorist attacks. Watch it below, and take this pack of tissues while you're at it.

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