New CARDA dog in town

  • Feb. 7, 2011 8:00 a.m.


Golden now has its third Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association (CARDA) team.

Baron is a Golden Retriever and a few months shy of three years old. His handler and owner, Kris Beattie—a Kicking Horse Mountain Resort (KHMR) ski patroller — has been training him to be an Avalanche Rescue Dog since he was a puppy.

Although Beattie knows Baron is a pretty happy and lucky dog, he does say Baron is sensitive, especially to his own moods.

There are now three validated CARDA teams in Golden: Kyle Hale and Wiser, Barb Quinn and Lava and now Beattie with Baron. There are also two more dogs currently in training. Each CARDA team is required to undergo regular training and is tested annually.

CARDA is a volunteer non-profit charitable organization with the goal to train and maintain a network of highly efficient avalanche search and rescue teams across Canada.

Dogs have sensitive noses and incredible agility and stamina, which allows them to sniff out an area much quicker than what humans can do with a probe line.

Beattie trained Baron for over two years, starting with games of tug-of-war to work up his aggression.

For Baron to pass his final CARDA test, he had to find two sweaters and a backpack buried 75 cm deep in a 100 metre by 100 metre plot. Dogs are given 45 minutes to complete the task and Baron finished within the first half hour.

According to a recent article on avalanche rescue dogs in Dogs in Canada Magazine, a dog can detect an item as bland as a ski pole, buried metres deep in densely packed snow, thanks to its ultra-keen olfactory system which is 10,000 to 10 million times more sensitive than a human’s. Well-trained dogs can roughly search an avalanche area as large as a football field eight times faster than a rescue team that probes the snow searching for a body. It’s the handler’s job to take charge, acting as the eyes and brains of a search so the dog can focus on scent.

Dog handlers are registered with the provincial emergency program of BC, required to be an active member of a Search and Rescue team, hold a first aid certificate and be highly experienced in the backcountry.

Most dogs stay in the CARDA program until they are fairly old and lose the stamina required for these intense avalanche searches.

So how did they celebrate when Baron became an official CARDA dog?

“I let him sleep,” said Beattie. “He was a pretty tired dog.”

Kyle Hale, the president of CARDA and Mountain Safety Manager at KHMR, said he is proud to have another validated team here in Golden and congratulated both Baron and Beattie.

Ironically enough KHMR was just given the title of “Best Snow Snouts” award from Ski Canada Magazine’s 2011 Best of Skiing in Canada Awards. This is what they said:

“A dog’s life can be pretty rough but Wiser, Baron and Brooke have it pretty good. These pooches are hard-working members of the Kicking Horse Mountain Safety Team and proud members of the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog program.”

Congratulations to Beattie and Baron and all of Golden’s Avalanche Rescue Dog teams.