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Thunder Dog [Update]
Famed Guide Dog of 9/11 remembered in new book
Michael Hingson and Roselle.

Ten years ago, Guide Dog Roselle, a three-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever, was sleeping under a desk on the 78th floor of Tower One of the World Trade Center. Her partner, Michael Hingson, was preparing for a routine training meeting when he heard the explosion.

The date: September 11, 2001.

Stairs were the only way out. So Michael Hingson, who is blind from birth, worked in tandem with Roselle, taking 1,463 steps down 78 floors to safety.

I met Michael Hingson five years after the September 11 tragedy. He and I were in Raleigh, N.C., with our guide dogs, both of us presenting at a 2006 conference for people who work in blind services. Michael’s speech about experiences with Roselle on 9/11 wowed the crowd.

“You have got to write a book!” I told him at the hotel bar after our presentations. Michael is a good talker. Roselle was already asleep when we arrived. After guiding me to a seat at the bar, my Seeing Eye dog, a Golden Retriever/Lab cross named Hanni, had the good sense to settle in with her co-worker under our bar stools.

Sipping a cocktail, Michael explained how he’d left a 27-year career in high-tech computer sales and management to accept a position at Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) as National Public Affairs director. In a country where 70 percent of people who are blind are unemployed, his career path is miraculous enough, not to mention surviving September 11 with Roselle. He was quick to point out he’d already hooked up with the publisher of AKC Gazette to write his book.

Michael and I kept up via email after the conference, and when I finally got my courage up and asked how the book was coming along, Michael responded that “it just never came together.”

Enter Susy Flory. After contacting Michael last year about including his 9/11 story in a book she was writing called Dog Tales, she asked if he had any interest in writing a book. “She told me she’d be willing to help me with it,” he said. “It just clicked.”

Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero by Michael Hingson with Susy Flory was published by Thomas Nelson Publishers last month. One instance in Thunder Dog that really sticks with me is when Michael and Roselle found themselves in a subway station on 911. Everyone there had smoke and dirt in their eyes—they were all, in fact, blind, and each one terribly frightened of falling into the tracks.  Poor Roselle, I don’t know how she could see or breathe, but she managed to guide all of them to safety.

Michael is traveling with his new guide, a yellow Lab named Africa, to promote the book for the ten-year anniversary of the tragedy. He says his Guide Dog’s spirit never diminished during their 78-story stairwell descent on September 11, 2011, and that spirit was evident during the six-and-a-half years the two of them spent together afterwards traveling hundreds of thousands of miles throughout the United States and the world to speak about trust and teamwork.

“If anything, Roselle’s spirit grew even stronger after 9/11,” says Hingson, who has left Guide Dogs for the Blind to start his own company, now speaking to corporations and organizations on behalf of the Michael Hingson Group. “I want people to understand that the real handicap of blindness is not a lack of eyesight, but a lack of proper education about blindness,” he says. And while Roselle is no longer with him physically, Hingson knows her spirit will always, always be with him. “She helps me be a better person today, and everyday.”

Here’s a video preview with Michael Hingson (and Africa) and Susy Flory:

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Beth Finke's book, Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound—about her bond with her Seeing Eye dog—won an ASPCA/Henry Bergh children's book award. Follow Hanni and Beth's travels on the Safe & Sound blog. bethfinke.wordpress.com
CommentsPost a Comment
Please note comments are moderated. After being approved your comment will appear below.
Submitted by Margaret L | September 16 2011 |

I believe that animals can teach we humans a lot . They have hearts of
love. There are people sometimes mistreat them but the dog will come back and lick their hand, What a lesson in forgiveness.

Submitted by Allison Nastoff | September 20 2011 |

I downloaded Thunder Dog from Bookshare last Sunday, the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and it really is an incredible book that has been a source of inspiration for me and I have been blind almost my whole life. I'm so glad this book came together after all, as it is an excellent tribute to the tragedy of 9/11, the human/animal bond and the power of hope and determination in the face of adversity.

Submitted by Megan & Caleb | October 12 2011 |

We've know Micheal though Guide Dogs for the Blind for many years. A fun fact about his current guide dog Africa. Micheal and his wife became breeder custodians for a female yellow lab named Fantasia. We raised one of her puppies, Andera (now Andhi) and Africa is from the same litter!

Submitted by Joe Stoner | November 11 2011 |

We have 3 certified therapy dogs - 2 black labs and 1 yellow lab - ages 10, 3, and 2.
In Genesis, God had Adam name all the animals. I believe Adam named the 4-legged animal "dog", which is "God" spelled backward because a dog shows so much love just as God does.
Roselle used and showed that love in getting Mr. Mingson out of that serious situation.

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