Tag Archives: Avalanche Rescue Dog

Meet Moose the Avalanche Dog

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Crested Butte recently released this awesome video about the life of Moose, an avalanche dog. His handler, Dustin, talks about Moose’s job, his love of the mountains and how he lives to find people buried in the snow.

Avalanche dogs use their noses to find buried avalanche victims. Dogs also make the best ski patrollers–they’re enthusiastic about hard work, love to dig in the snow, and know how to party after a job well done.

Moose the avalanche dog

This Avalanche Rescue Canine Gets to Work

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kala_on_the_runLet me introduce Kala. She’s one of the avalanche rescue dogs at Crystal. Not just any dog can be an avalanche rescue dog; it takes a special kind to do this work. Any breed will do, even mixed breed dogs have been part of our patrol. Yet they must be keen to work (aka “play” to a dog), strong and a little bit obsessive. That’s Kala.

If I ever get caught in an avalanche, I want Kala coming for me. Notice how she keeps digging and trying to get to the victim. Instead of waiting for her handler to do the work, she just keeps going. I love that persistence. Keep it up Kala.

Weekly High-Five Report: The love of a good dog

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Rocket and Kim at Work

A good dog will ruin you. Anyone who has ever loved a dog knows this. Even bad dogs can be ruinous. They bury into that tender spot just beneath our heart and stay there, like a chigger or a tick. Each time we leave them at home, their noses slashing smudges on the window beside the front door, that small place under our heart breaks open. A new and larger scab forms over that spot, and each subsequent leave-taking grows more painful.

Dogs know this. They know how to make us love them beyond anything rational. We constantly try to remind ourselves, “he’s just a dog. At least he has a warm house to sleep in while I’m away.” But it doesn’t matter. We know that the dog has vowed to be part of our pack, to find his place in our lives, to fit around our daily tasks like a pool of still-warm jello until it finally hardens and he becomes part of us.

Rocket was the dog that ruined me. When he died a few years back, I wasn’t sure I could love another dog, and so far I haven’t been able to. We called him Rocket Dog, Rocket Ship, Rock Star or, at the end, just Rock. We made up songs about him to the tune of Elton John’s “Rocket Man“. He was an avalanche rescue dog, and I took him to work with me every day. He would sleep below the bench in the patrol room quietly, but the moment I would ask him to “go to work,” he’d pop out, his nose wet, his tail wagging.

Hoot in her element

My mom’s dog, Annie, passed away yesterday. She was a golden retriever. A little bit spazzy and she breathed too heavily on me when I visited, Annie was the most loving dog I’ve ever met. She had many nicknames; we rarely called her Annie until she got sick. Instead we called her Spaz Dog or Hootenanny or, most often, just Hoot. She only wanted to please her people, and would usually run out onto the street to say hello to a passing human.

She also loved the elk that patrolled around my parents’ cabin, and would often try to blend in with them. On several occasions she narrowly escaped a vicious kick from an elk; but like any golden retriever, she wasn’t deterred from negative feedback. She just couldn’t believe that another living thing didn’t love her. She just wouldn’t buy it.

The love of a good dog is a blessing like few others in this world. It is untainted, unbiased and completely unconditional. It is a gift.

But there’s a catch. Dogs don’t live long enough. They leave us just when that scab has grown too large, just when their jello has hardened around the routine of our lives; without them we feel loosened and off-kilter. Old leashes gather dust in the garage of our heart, but we can’t bring ourselves to throw them out. Perhaps the fact that dogs die too early is a lesson reminding us that nothing in this world is perfect. Even the perfect love of a dog is not permanent. This would be a helpful lesson if I was a Buddhist. But I’m not. I’m just another ruined dog owner.

Goodbye Hootenanny. Your love made the world a little brighter. Bravo girl.

Future Ski Patroller

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Today my step-daughter, Evelyn, shadowed me on the hill. She says she wants to be a ski patroller someday, and who am I to discourage her? Evelyn enjoys even the most mundane of ski patrol skills: cleaning rope lines. “Hey look Kim, a rope line. Can we go clean it?”

“Sure,” I tell her. “But didn’t we already clean that one this morning?”

Today, she got an even greater pleasure–we buried her in a hole for the dogs. Christina and I put her in a snow cave, shoveled in the entrance and let Newman search for her. He found her in two minutes.

When I asked her how it was, she said it was “Awesome”, and Newman’s handler, Lynn, was quite proud. Looks like I have a new shadow.