Gone are the days of a slobbering St. Bernards lumbering through the Swiss Alps, wearing barrels of brandy around their necks. (We Googled it! They really carried around booze to “keep you warm” while you waited for help!) There’s a new era of ski patrol pup, thanks to Colorado’s avalanche dogs. See you later, literal boozehounds, meet your new replacements!
The new Snow Dogs in town (no relation to the Cuba Gooding, Jr. movie) come from a variety of different dog breeds. Today’s avalanche rescue dogs range from Labrador Retrievers, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers, Airedale Terriers and even a Australian Cattle Dog mix. Working in several different towns in Colorado and Utah, all these dogs share a very particular set of skills, much like Liam Neeson in the Taken movies. According to Lori Spence who leads the avalanche dog program for the Aspen Skiing Company in her interview with CNN, "The dog's nose is tens of thousands of times better than our nose, so if people [who are lost] are not wearing an avalanche transceiver beacon, then our best bet to find them alive is to get the dogs our there first. They can search an area so much faster than we could. It could take us many hours, up to days, where the dogs can hopefully locate a person in minutes."
Training for the avi dogs (as those in the know say, short for avalanche) begins when the dogs are wee pups. The dogs are initially acclimated to the area by going on chairlifts (puppies on a chairlift, can you imagine?!), riding on toboggans and meeting a variety of different people they might encounter on the job. The next step of their training is to make their future rescues into a game where they start looking for people hiding in the snow. The game is rewarded with tug of war to keep the pups’ interest. But it’s not all work, when the dogs have downtime they keep warm in the patrol station and at night go home with their ski patrol handlers, enhancing the bond between the human-canine team and also creating a good work/life balance for the puppers.
If you didn’t think it could get any cuter YOU ARE WRONG. The dogs even have their own trading cards with each dog’s picture and bio! People travel from hill to hill to meet all the dogs and collect all the cards. It sounds so adorable, someone get us some skis!
Unleashed is Bravo's celebration of pamper-worthy pets and how to spoil them. Want more? Then Like us on Facebook to stay connected to our daily updates.