Men, Dogs, & Avalanches

SQUAW VALLEY, CA - Even with this mild winter, still two people have died in small avalanches in the Sierra in the past two weeks. Training goes on all the time in the Sierra with ski resorts and sheriff departments on how to respond and rescue victims of an avalanche. Those who do the task say it wouldn’t be possible without man’s best friend.

For the last couple of years, Craig Noble and his dog Wylee have worked together to find avalanche victims.

They meet a man who has apparently assessed the situation at an avalanche site who believes there may be more than one victim.

While this is a pretty typical scenario in which the two may find themselves, today it is only practice.

Wylee and eight other dogs are learning to hone their skills up at Squaw Valley Ski Report.

“If he has a find, and you go over there and try to pull him off, he'll snap at you. This is mine, this is his game. He knows it's the best thing in the world for him. Because he just loves it,” says Noble with the Squaw Valley Dog Program

The dogs are disciplined on the ground, there's no question there.

But part of the training is to acclimate them to being in the air.

That is where CareFlight comes in.

For the last 8 years the medical helicopter has worked with the dogs and their handlers to not only learn how to enter and exit a helicopter properly but gain confidence during the ride.

This is a relatively new experience for Smoke; a dog who hides his head in his trainer’s lap during flight.

For other dogs like Tucker though it’s just another helicopter ride.

Once back on the ground, both dog and trainer are dropped off.

In this particular exercise the dogs are attempting to locate items that could just as easily represent a trapped skier or hiker.

“It’s all based on praise,” says Noble when asked about motivation for the dog and the “find.”


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