Westminster to pay tribute to Sept. 11 rescue dogs

? Most years, Apollo would never make it to the Westminster dog show.

He’s getting a bit gray in the muzzle, his teeth are yellowing, and he’s slowing down. Not at all like the 2,500 perfectly primped pooches at America’s most prestigious canine competition.

Frank Shane's golden retriever Nikie is a therapy dog certified to work at the World Trade Center site in New York.

Come tonight, though, the 10-year-old German shepherd from the New York Police Department will stand proudly in the center ring at Madison Square Garden.

Apollo will be among a dozen search and rescue dogs honored in a tribute to their tireless work at the World Trade Center and Pentagon after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“The first thing we thought was, ‘How are we going to recognize these dogs?'” show chairman Thomas Bradley said. “We kind of mushed it around, and being here in New York, we thought this was the way to do it.”

Lt. Daniel Donadio said he was surprised and honored that Westminster called.

“When we walk out on that green carpet at the Garden, it’ll really be something,” he said. “But let’s remember, it’s all about the dogs. And don’t forget, they’re still there at ground zero, working every day to recover bodies.”

Apollo, among them.

He was at the site of the disaster 15 minutes after the World Trade Center towers collapsed and was nearly killed.

USA Network, televising the event at 7 tonight on channel 46, combined with the Westminster Kennel Club and the Pedigree company to contribute $275,000 to the National Association for Search and Rescue.