Friday, September 09, 2005

Matt RW1 - "Dog-gone, dedicated"

Dog-gone, dedicated
Sept. 9, 2005
By Matt Nippert

NEW YORK - While Sirius may be enjoying the big dog house in the sky, countless other canines can now enjoy a park on terra firma after Battery Park City dedicated a dog run to the famous yellow Labrador on Thursday.

The Port Authority police dog was lost in the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attacks when his handler, Sergeant David Lim, spent time rescuing people instead of letting his partner out of his basement cage.

The Sirius Dog Run, at the corner at the corner of Liberty St. and South End Ave., is now open to two and four-legged members of the public.

Sirius and Lim had been together for one-and-a-half years, ever since they graduated from dog-handling school together. “It usually takes three and a half months to complete the course, depending on how smart the dog is,” said Lim.

And how smart was Sirius?

“Ask any handler, and they’ll give you the same answer: ‘My dog is the smartest,’” Said Lim.

His wife, Diane Lim, insists on some objectivity. “He was a big, dumb, dog. He walked into a fire hydrant the first day we got him. He had his head down, sniffing the ground, and then - Bam! - but he could find bombs.”

Both Lim, then a K-9 officer, and Sirius, worked at the World Trade Center on explosives-detection duty. The Port Authority has employed canine explosive teams since the 1993 bombing.

Kenneth J. Ringler Jr, executive director of the Port Authority, heaped praise on both Mr. Lim and his best friend. “Sirius was really on the front line in protecting us against terrible acts,” Ringler said.

Lim was, according to Ringler, “Truly a hero on that day. He stayed in that building and got people out – I know colleagues he saved – while his partner was still in his cage.”

Sirius has been replaced now, by a black Labrador named Sprig. But memories of their 9-11 dog remain, and Diane Lim often gets their names confused.

“It’s so hard, so much talking about Sirius,” she said.

Mr. and Mrs. Lim, Long Island residents and married for 19 years, will remember Sirius as the dog that didn’t quite know his own size.

“At home he was just a big, 100 pound teddy bear. He would jump up into your lap and crush you because he thought he was a lap-dog,” said Mr. Lim.

“Or a little Pekinese,” added his wife.

The dog run, located in Monsignor Kowsky Plaza, isn’t large, but is welcomed by Battery Park residents. “The run is great, not just for dog-owners, but also the temporarily dog-deprived,” said Jeff Galloway, co-president of the Battery Park City dog association.

And Mrs. Lim said that the run would get used by Sprig. “If David is at the World Trade Center and has Sirius - I mean Sprig - Jeeze, I did it again...”

The dedication ceremony was attended by four flag-bearers, and a 10-strong pipe-band, from the Port Authority Police. The band played “God Bless America” marching in, and “America” marching out. Dressed in kilts and tassels, one piper was later overheard saying, “I can’t believe I got dressed up like this for a dog.”

Then there’s the national anthem, the concluding reverie disrupted by the yapping of seven nearby Chihuahua’s packed into a pram. One wears a sombrero, another a cowboy hat, and yet another sports a frilly green collar.

The pack of small dogs belongs to Charles Johnston, who wears an vivid-orange Hawaiian shirt and has a stuffed toy tiger stashed in the bottom compartment of his pram.

Johnston, 73, and suffering from early-stage Parkinson’s disease, said he was there to sell one of his puppies, Susie Q.

He’s not a dog-breeder by choice. “They just happen to me!” he said. His other three Chihuahua’s have been left at home; two are pregnant, he says, and the third, Brandy, is an alcoholic.

“By the time I’ve turned around and asked my wife whether there’s enough for a second whiskey sour, Brandy’s swiped the first. I can’t bring her out in public.”

Johnston said small dogs were adorable, but also therapy.

“Every day is an adventure. It causes someone who might need psychiatric help to become reborn.”

But finally, after speeches and a plaque-unveiling, refreshments befitting a police K-9 memorial were served: coffee, donuts and dog biscuits.

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