REVELSTOKE – Search and rescue members and their dogs are learning potentially life-saving avalanche rescue skills this week in Revelstoke. More than twenty dogs and their handlers from Canada and the U.S. have gathered at Revelstoke Mountain Resort this week for five days of training put on by the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association (CARDA).
“Basically, if you are not equipped with a transceiver and you are not able to effect a companion rescue, really the only best way to find somebody is with the dogs,” says course coordinator Al Roberts.
On Thursday, beginner pups did an exercise looking for a person purposely buried just under the snow, along with a pack with human scent on it.
“What we are teaching them is if they find live human scent by using their hunting instinct, then they get a powerful reward,” says instructor Jay Pugh.
The big prize for the dogs if they’re successful? A game of tug of war.
“It’s a little bit actually like when the wolf pack rips the meat off a deer. It’s ironic because we are teaching dogs to save lives here but that is the instinct we are coupling with finding live human scent,” explains Pugh.
The beginners still have more work to do, but some dogs and handlers at higher levels will come away from the week a validated team.
“Being validated means that we are now operational,” says dog handler Brandon Pollard. “If there is a call out from the local search and rescue organization…we are now a valid team to go and investigate that site and call it clear.”