There are two avalanche rescue dogs in Golden, and they both work hard at their jobs. Brooke is nine now, and will probably do another winter of work before thinking about retirement.
What they do is an important part of avalanche rescue in the area. They are highly skilled in tracking down any scent, and basically play a game of tug-of-war to rescue people who fall victim to avalanches.
“In the winters they come to work every day with us,” Sherriff said, who is an avalanche forecaster. “They are trained to find any human scent, so we can do the same thing in the summer. We can just hide sweaters.”
The sweaters have a human scent on them, and the dogs will look for them until they are found. Then, after locating the “missing” sweater, they play a game of tug-of-war, which would dislodge a body from an avalanche.
Brooke has been training for this job every since she was born. She was bred to be a police dog, but wasn’t chosen because of her size. She is a small German Shepherd, making her the perfect companion for Sherriff.
At six months old, she was already working toward her goal of helping others. She attended the spring course for the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association (CARDA), and was assessed to ensure she met all of the prerequisites for pursuing her career. She passed the assessment and was entered into the CARDA program, and she began training and working toward her career with Sherriff. Once she was a year old, she attended a seven-day course in the winter to learn the game of search and rescue. Then after waiting another year and working on her skills, she took another seven-day course and passed the test. Every year since then, she has retested to make sure she’s still doing her job to the best of her ability, and every second year she attends another seven-day training course.
“Everything that we do with them is a game. She doesn’t know that she’s looking for a missing kid or a missing adult,” Sherriff said. “She just things that she’s out looking for a sweater, or a person, and we’re going to have a game of tug at the end.”
Brooke knows that practice makes perfect, so she keeps up on her training all year. Sherriff will go and hide a sweater in the woods, and she has to snigg out where it is. In the winter, she works really hard running through snow all day, so she stays very fit. In the summer, they like to play and even bigger game of searching for the sweater, so sometimes it is hidden further away, testing her skills at long range searching.
“She’s a good little work dog. She’s pretty fun,” Sherriff said. “She’s quite focused, so she’s just staring at me all the time. She’s quite friendly, she likes to play, she loves ball… She is quite inquisitive and definitely mischeivous. They’re really busy, so if you don’t give them something to do, they will find something to do.”
Brooke lives at home with the Sherriff family, and has her dog run all to herself. She lives outside year round, and has a good amount of room to roam in the yard. She knows when it is time to go to work as soon as she wears her vest, and is very focused and dedicated to her job.
“Generally you wouldn’t be able to tell that she’s a working dog on a regular day, but as soon as she puts her vest on it’s focus time,” Sherriff said.