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New avalanche dog team at FAR

Jennifer Coulter and her dog Farley. - Submitted photo
Jennifer Coulter and her dog Farley.
— image credit: Submitted photo

Fernie Alpine Resort (FAR) has a new rescue dog team after they qualified at the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dogs Association (CARDA) winter course last week.

Ski patroller Forest Latimer and Tarn, a two-year-old border collie, were certified last week after participating in the training course.

They will now join veteran dog teams Steve Morrison and Mojo, and Jennifer Coulter and Farley, to be available for call outs by FAR, the RCMP or Fernie Search and Rescue.

CARDA instructor Jennifer Coulter said about 30 dog teams visited FAR last week from all over B.C. to take part in the course.

There were three groups for different experience levels. Not all puppies are suitable for training to be CARDA dogs so the puppies must have all passed an assessment in Kelowna before they can take part in the puppy training.

“They have to have the drive,” said Jennifer. “If they were considered suitable for training they came here and learned how to find people buried in snow and how to dig through the walls of snow caves to find people. They also got accustomed to being around snowmobiles and helicopters.”

The intermediate group was for teams like Forest and Tarn trying to get certified for the first time.

There was also an advanced group for experienced teams that wanted to be re-certified. Jennifer and Farley and Steve and Mojo were in this group.

“They have to be re-certified every year,” said Jennifer. “They spent time practising different aspects of rescues, like multi-dog searching and backcountry rescues with helicopters.”

The CARDA winter course is held at a different location every year.

“It’s been really successful,” said Jennifer. “It was nice for the public to see the dogs up on the hill all week too. And it was great of Fernie Alpine Resort to host the course.”

Farley and Mojo will be retiring in the next couple of years but Jennifer and Steve have become the owners of new puppies for training.

FAR ski patroller Kirk Gutzman is also planning to get a new puppy to train after retiring his old dog, Lily.

Lily had to have her front leg amputated after being diagnosed with cancer. She made an incredible recovery but Kirk decided it was time for her to retire.

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