Photographing Sandy Girl Was An Honor

The story behind this image is about a very special dog, named Sandy Girl, and the people she touched in her life. Especially a young woman named Mandy Jack.

I created this photographic portrait of Sandy Girl in March of 2006. I hope it illustrates her humble pride and kind heart. The American flag symbolizes her heroic service as a cadaver dog used at the twin towers after September 11, 2001. She walked the ruins on the hot steel and smoldering rubble of the towers searching for human remains. Her training and relentless searching efforts gave closure to families who lost loved ones that horrific day.

When her job was done, she and her handler returned home to Louisiana. Her handler developed a kidney disease, eventually went into severe kidney failure and moves to a nursing home. Sandy was now homeless and put into a shelter. Unfortunately, it was not a no-kill shelter. She was there for a couple of months and was scheduled to be put down.

Karl, a young marine on leave visiting his sister in Louisiana, was the conduit for a divine intervention. He went to an animal shelter where he met a beautiful girl. A German shepherd named Sandy Girl.

How this hero of a canine could end up on death row in a dog shelter baffles his mind. Karl took Sandy home with him that very day in the spring of 2003.

Karl recognized the injustice of Sandy's predicament. Being a marine that had just returned home from the chaos in Iraq may also have played a role in the immediate decision to rescue a canine service comrade.

Karl had Sandy for about a year when he received orders to be sent to Okinawa, Japan. He was determined that Sandy would not be homeless again. He reached out to the Jack family who he knew through friendship with their nephew in Louisiana.

They had met Sandy prior at a July 4, 2003 picnic. The Jack family, Jane, Jeffery, and their daughter Mandy, immediately fell in love with Sandy even before they heard her story. Therefore, when Karl contacted them they had no hesitation in giving Sandy a permanent home.

I first met Sandy Girl in 2005. They described her to me as a kind soul and true American hero. It was hard not to notice the inseparateable bond between Mandy and Sandy Girl. Sandy was a true friend to Mandy Jack. Mandy has epilepsy and when she would have seizures, Sandy would stay close to her. Her closeness would relieve Mandy's anxiety, when seizures would scare her. In my heart, I believe they were kindred spirits. Mandy told me that she and Sandy were known as the "Andy" girls.

Jane Jack worked in the Maine Endwell School system and took Sandy to a flag ceremony with two soldier brothers from Endicott, New York. It was a memorable for all involved.

Sandy had a special place in the Jack family's, their parent's, and friend's hearts. She was loved, treated with respect, and caring by all who met her. According to Jane Jack, there was never a mean streak in her soul and she constantly offered her love to them. When they walked in the door from long days of work Sandy was there to greet them. She would nudge her head into their knees as if to give them all "HUGS".

They had Sandy in their lives for five years. They did the best they could to keep here comfortable during her final illness. She passed away on December 4, 2008.

This final thought is from a letter Jane Jack wrote to me. "Just as those that lost their lives in the twin towers, gone forever but never forgotten. Sandy was a true friend to our daughter Mandy who was born with cerebral palsy and epilepsy. Gosh we miss her”. Sandy Girl