Meet the newest member of Crystal Mountain’s Ski Patrol.
Luna (owned by Eric Gullickson and Anna deArrieta) is an eight-week old Belgian Malamois, and yesterday was her first day on the patrol.
Training an avalanche rescue dog is a long, intense job. This season Anna and Eric will work on socializing Luna–getting her used to riding the chairlift, running alongside them as they ski, and training her on basic commands. The key this year will be to have Luna understand the "game" of avalanche rescue: if she finds a human-scented object under the snow, she will get to play.
Avalanche rescue dogs are used to find victims buried in the snow. They "alert" on a scent, showing the handler where to probe and shovel. Dogs don’t necessarily dig the victim out of the snow, since avalanche debris is the consistency of hard boulders. Instead, avalanche dogs show the handlers where to dig.
Once a dog gets the basic game, dog handlers increase the distractions and bury the object (whether a person or an article of clothing) deeper in the snow, making it ever more realistic.
One day Luna will become a certified avalanche rescue dog, like Cirrus.
For now, she’s a candidate. But she’s already one of us. Plus, she’s adorable.