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How 9/11 Led Me to Dogs
A Bark reader and first responder tells her story
Former NYC police officer Rose Russo with Lily-Pads (left) and Penny-Lane.

I had worked as an NYPD police officer and detective for 13 years. On September 11, my life, like those of so many others, would be shattered by the events that took place that day, and my vision of retiring as a member of the NYPD abruptly ended.

As a result of injuries suffered as a responder to the World Trade Center, I was diagnosed with a condition known as Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), a debilitating condition that worsens over time. My frustration grew when every doctor simply wished me luck and sent me on my way. No one could even explain the condition to me. All I knew was my nerves would continue to deteriorate. My body would continue to breakdown and I could very possibly end up in a wheelchair.

With this prognosis, I fell into a deep depression and needed to find something to bring some joy into my life. What would that cure be? DOGS! I enrolled in the New York School of Dog Training and found a new purpose for living.

Then I met Diane Zdrodowski, a breeder of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. I fell in love with the breed, and soon welcomed my first puppy Penny-Lane into my life.

Did you know that Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are highly affectionate, playful and aim to please? With those beautiful bright eyes, they can melt hearts and make excellent companions.

My Penny-Lane knows when I am having good days and when I am having bad ones. There have been days when the pain confined me to the bed, and Penny-Lane would stay by my side.

So what’s better than one Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, how about two? Penny-Lane and I welcome Lily-Pads into the pack, and together, they give me a reason to get out of bed and help other dogs and families with problematic dogs.

Rose Russo lives in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y. She has been a Bark subscriber ever since she started RoCo Dog Training, Boarding and Grooming in Briarcliff.

Photo by Chelsey Bastos. Penny-Lane and Lily-Pads outfits by Lucy Maderios from RoxyandLulu.com. Rose Russo wears her dress blue uniform. She is still very much involved with the department, and belongs to the NYCP Self Support for officers who were injured while on duty.

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Submitted by Monica | September 9 2011 |

Wonderful story! I have 2 Cavaliers of my own and I agree 100% that they are life-savers. They are some of the most affectionate and empathetic little dogs in the world.

Submitted by Anonymous | September 19 2011 |

Dogs have that unconditional love that you are so well deserving of after that horrific experience on 9/11. May God bless you and keep you in good health.


Submitted by Amanda | September 9 2011 |

Thank you Rose for sharing your experience. I wish you the best in your work and in managing your medical condition. Your dogs are adorable. I've met one Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and she had me smitten. Her people parents brag about her every time I see them!

Submitted by Barlency | September 10 2011 |

I have cavaliers as well and a friend showed me this article. I'm so glad you have them to get you and others through their lives. I am also training to be a Nurse and I looked after a patient with CRPS over the last two weeks, she also had two crushed vertebrae. The other staff and Drs only recognised the crush injury and refused to acknowledge the CRPS and though she was a bit loopy. She ended up getting discharged without controlling the pain, which was in her mouth for a couple of weeks and is now all over her back. Hopefully, she will be lucky and the pain will subside over time.

Submitted by kathleen | September 10 2011 |

You and your dogs are a true inspiration. We salute your bravery and courage. My dogs also give my a reason to get up and go forward in life when it seems so hopeless. What a beautiful breed and beautiful story.

Submitted by Tricia | September 10 2011 |

What an incredible story, Rose. Thanks for sharing with us. I wish you all the best with you business and medical condition. 9/11 will never be forgotten. And, stories, like yours, continue to touch our hearts. Please give those sweet Cavaliers a big hug tonight for us. We adopted a Cavalier, too. He is incredibly special and makes us laugh and smile too many times to count each day. All of the very best to you and your sweet girls.

Submitted by Anonymous | September 10 2011 |

Surely there cannot be a better lap or bedside dog than a CKCS! I am so sorry for your illnesses, grateful for your service, & incredibly glad you chose a CKCS to be at your side. You'll remain in my thoughts & positive vibes!

Submitted by Gail | September 10 2011 |

Hi Rose...
We always knew you were special, but we never knew just how special. Now, we admire you more than ever. Your role on 9/11/01 was exemplary. You are a dedicated, kind and honest person. Dogs are very sensetive animals so they carefully listen to you and love you...as do all of your clients. Especially us. Take care of yourself, Penny Lane and Lily Pads. We hope to see you soon.
With warmest wishes from Gail, Peter, Chia and Lola.

Submitted by Rick Caran | September 10 2011 |

Rose, this is a wonderful story. You are a true hero, I am proud that we are friends. My prayers and best wishes for a healthy and happy life are with you... See you soon! rick

Submitted by Frank Hoyos | September 11 2011 |

I'm samii's boyfriend, I'm honored to read your story and samii has told me many amazing things about you, ji don't know you personally but it doesn't take anyone to know your an amazing woman and I admire you very much for that, I hope to meet youand your "kids" ;) one day haha have a good one! :)

Submitted by Anonymous | September 11 2011 |

Rose, I am so sorry you are having the trouble you are. You could have not picked a better breed of dog for comfort on your bad days. The Cavalier seems to know, maybe more than any other breed, when their people are not well. They have also been known as the comforter spaniel because they take their job very seriously. And I see that you found out what many Cavalier owners have discovered: you can't have just one!

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