During a recent ski tour to Table Mountain in the Mount Baker backcountry, three friends and I rescued a lost dog. It was an hour before sunset on a cold December afternoon and there were no other people in sight when we spotted the shorthaired mutt searching for her owners. As the shivering, disoriented animal limped higher up the mountain, away from the parking lot, it became clear that something was wrong. One member of our group, Kirsten, attracted the timid dog with an avocado sandwich. Kirsten phoned the number we found on the dog’s identification tags and was able to get in touch with the owner, who was waiting in the cozy Heather Meadows lodge, about a 30-minute hike from our location. The dog was not able to run through powder because of some bloody cuts on her feet, so Kirsten and I carried her in our arms while skiing. Soon we came to a firm skintrack that was easier on her paws and she was able to run next to us the rest of the way to the ski area boundary, where we met the grateful owner. This incident highlights the importance of proper training and dog etiquette in the backcountry. Here are some things to consider before you take your puppy into the snow.
Dog Safety and Comfort
First and foremost, make sure your dog is comfortable in cold weather and can travel safely in the snow. Avalanche rescue dogs are commonly larger, furrier breeds like German Shepherds or Golden Retrievers, but that doesn’t mean your Labrador or Blue Heeler should stay home. If you have a small, shorthaired breed think about buying a brightly colored doggy jacket, which has the added benefit of making your dog visible in the snow. Pay special attention to the dog’s paws because soft snow often gets jammed between the pads, causing painful cuts and bruises. Some handlers will even slather Vaseline between their dog’s toes to prevent this problem and others will purchase dog booties made specifically for this purpose. Also, if you are planning an extended tour, remember to feed your dog a bit more water and food than normal. High-protein foods are particularly important because the dog will burn more energy thanks to the cold temperatures and hard work. Read More →