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Pups help crews save people from avalanches on Wasatch Front

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Pups help crews save people from avalanches on Wasatch Front

By The Associated Press | Posted - Mar. 11, 2017 at 9:44 p.m.



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PROVO — Four specially trained rescue dogs stationed at Sundance Mountain Resort help crews respond to avalanches and other winter disasters.

The dogs and their handlers are on call every day in the winter, ready to help respond to disasters from Ogden to Spanish Fork and any other part of the Wasatch Front, the Daily Herald reported.

For the dogs, which were selected by Wasatch Backcountry Rescue when they were puppies, the rescues are fun. The patrol pups dig in snow drifts, sniff around the woods and run through snow in exchange for rewards. For the dog's handlers, it's less fun and more work.

"If you were a dog and this whole mountain were yours, you'd want to come to work too," said Tracy Christensen, who handles a black lab named Jagger. "It's everything a dog wants to do."

Christensen, however, has to stay up-to-date on the latest training and avalanche rescue techniques in order to remain an effective rescue program member. He travels around the world to network with other rescue programs.

"We're really online with what everybody else in the world is doing," he said. "We're a part of an international program. … We just returned from Bulgaria, where we sat in on a dog conference."

This year alone, Christensen and Jagger have been called twice at Sundance and several other times across the Wasatch Front. And when winter is over, the work doesn't end.

"A lot of people say, 'You have an avalanche dog, that's cute, but what do you do the rest of the year?'" Christensen said. "We train year-round with these dogs. They don't get the summers off. It's a full-time job for these dogs to be sharp and stay on top of things."

Despite all the training, Christensen says both he and Jagger love the job.

"The craziest thing about this is they let me do this for a job," he said. "Isn't that awesome?"

The Associated Press

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