TAYLOR (WWJ) – A man from Taylor with ties to September 11th has a new “leash on life” thanks to a new best friend.
WWJ’s Kathryn Larson reports that this time of year is often hard for James MacDonald, it reminds him, of Angus, his German Shepard who died two years ago.
Together they not only searched for lost loved ones in Katrina, but combed the rubble of the Twin Towers for the victims and those are images Macdonald will never forget:
“Angus was an all-around dog … and to take a dog that is trained to attack on command … and (be able) to take him to a hospital were there are children or to (a) nursing home and kids can put their arms around him, kiss him … that’s very rare,” said MacDonald.
While there are no pictures of the chaos at Ground Zero inside his home, the images constantly replay in his mind.
“Because of the high intensity of the heat, and the fires, a lot of the concrete just crumbled and iron girders just twisted,” recalled MacDonald.
“I can still visualize the smoke coming up from the ashes,” said MacDonald.
MacDonald is a former Michigan police officer and dog training expert. He trained the orignal Hollywood Old Yeller and says that experience helped him make Angus even better at search and rescue:
“The dog has to know all of these hand signals, so studio training really taught me a lot about distractive training. When you train around distractions you get a much better trained and reliable dog,” said MacDonald.
And while MacDonald couldn’t protect his best friend from breathing in the toxic dust covering ground zero, he was able to protect Angus’s paws:
“I booted up my dog, most of the dogs that went through the search … there was a lot of glass, of course, from the building and a lot of those dogs ended up with cut pads on their feet, mine didn’t, because I always get mine used to wearing boots,” he explained.
MacDonald says to cope with the 9-11 memories– he wrote a children’s book.
“I knew it would help children growing up, and the general public would look more favorably upon the use of dogs in police work,” said MacDonald.
And more recently– he decided it was time to honor Angus’s memory — by adopting Colin.
“I got him when he was nine weeks … I can’t compare him, but I think I can come pretty close,” said MacDonald.
MacDonald says he’s has high hopes for his new friend.