At only 8 months old, this energetic black lab, named Keena, has already become a mountain dog at heart. She's been spending her first winter up at Copper Mountain in Colorado, playing in the snow, hanging out with fur-friends and human friends, and hopping onto chairlifts. If a dog could have a dream job, this would be the one! It's not all play for this pup though, Keena is actually training for a very serious career as an Avalanche Search and Rescue dog. She is fast and fearless, which is crucial when it comes down to saving someone's life in a matter of minutes.
A SAR dog's senses are vital to finding and saving lives in all types of situations. For instance, an Avalanche dog can search one hectare (2.5 acres) in 30 minutes, which would take approximately 4 hours for 20 humans using avalanche probes, to search an equivalent area. Keena will have to prove she has what it takes to smell and dig as fast as the pros, and it looks like she's well on her way to becoming the freshest SAR powder pup in Colorado!
- How did Keena become an Avalanche Rescue Dog, and what is the training involved?
Training is everyday, big or small. From socialization to people, things, noises and places to the game of hide and seek. Our avalanche dogs are rewarded with a big game of tug of war, and we build upon that from line of sight drills all the way to blind drills with live people in covered snow caves.
- What is a typical day like on the mountain as a rescue dog?
In our opinion, it's one of the best lives for a dog. They come to work, spend time in our patrol shacks meeting and greeting public, holding down the fort, and then training with us every chance we get.
- How do you guys get around the mountain?
The dogs travel by many methods. They ride chairlifts, snowmobiles, inside snow cats, and if a validated dog team gets deployed we would fly via helicopter to backcountry avalanches. But the most fun for the dogs is when they get to run down the mountain with us at the end of the day.
- Do you have a cool story or favorite memory of Keena?
Keena'a nickname is "chicken hawk" after the Foghorn Leghorn cartoon character. The tiny but feisty hawk who doesn't take any crap. Keena has learned if she charges a buried snow cave hole as fast as she can, she can break through the wall of snow, which has lead to blocks of snow catapulting into the holes at the waiting quarry. Helmets advised! (Left: Keena jumping into a snow cave. Right: Chicken Hawk)
Thanks Doug Lesch for taking the time to be a part of this week's Working Dog Wednesday! We have enormous respect for all of your hard work saving lives in dangerous conditions, and we look forward to seeing more of your awesome adventures!
Follow Keena's latest avalanche training adventures on Instagram at @keenatheavalanchepup