Three year-old Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association (CARDA) certified Joss stands at the top of Revelstoke Mountain Resort (RMR) fierce and determined. She’s been trained to locate someone buried under the snow. Though the gravity of her work can’t be overstated, to her, it’s just another walk in the park.
“For her it’s all a game. Everything is fun,” says Revelstoke Search and Rescue Volunteer Jeni Gibbs riding the chairlift with Joss at RMR. “When I say do you want to go to work, that’s like, do you want to go have a really good time. Not really like most people’s association with their job.”
Gibbs is Joss’ handler. She’s trained Joss from birth and says they have an almost telepathic connection.
Today, Gibbs has set up an exercise that’s both practice and fun for Joss. Hidden in the snow is a friendly volunteer. And Joss is going to try and find her.
Gibbs gives Joss the codeword, letting her know that it’s time to do her job.
She’s poised as she performs the rescue drill, scanning the terrain with a steadfast determination and ease before alerting her handler that she’s done her part.
It takes Joss less than 30 seconds to find her volunteer buried in the snow on the Southside of Mt. Mackenzie at RMR, and Gibbs rewards her with a game of tug of war. It’s all part of the game.
Though it’s all fun for Joss, it takes years of relationship building and work to get dogs to demonstrate the kinds of behaviours necessary to get validated and certified as an avalanche rescue dog and perform the way Joss does.
But Gibbs is humble. She calls it, “easy.”
“It’s pretty easy, it’s like she knows what I’m thinking, and I know what she’s thinking, and we can kind of read each other,” says Gibbs. “It’s like this is where mom is gonna let me go and run around, or this is where I’m gonna’ have to go back to the truck. When I say something she just knows what it means because, I taught her.”
Because of all the time they’ve spent together training, Gibbs and Joss have a special bond.
Gibbs calls Joss her best friend, and says she is beyond excited that she gets to spend her work days working with her dog.
“To have your best friend with you when you go to work, it’s pretty awesome,” says Gibbs.
According to CARDA, one avalanche rescue dog can search hectare of avalanche terrain in 30 minutes.
They say it would take human beings working in a group about four hours to do the same.
Founded in 1978, CARDA is dedicated to saving the lives of those caught in avalanches.
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