Visit this family-friendly mountain during the winter months and these canines will be hard to miss. You'll see them frolicking outside the ski patrol station or cruising down the mountain with their owners. The mountain currently has five dogs on staff - three that are certified and two puppies in training.
During Yahoo Travel's recent visit to Alaska, we met Kilo, one of the ski patrol pups in training. We spent the day together to find out exactly what it takes for a dog to become a hero.
The ski patrol humans here each owns his or her own dog, which means the animals come home with them at night and get to behave like regular pets when they're off-duty. Kilo is Alaskan by way of Hungary. Patroler Stacie Lordan wanted to try something a little outside the box with her new ski patrol pup.
She began searching for small working breeds and came across the Mudi, a rare type of medium-sized herding dog. Through the Mudi Club of America, she met a Hungarian woman who had previously used the breed in search-and-rescue operations. "This woman told me that Mudis have a lot of drive. They need jobs. They can be a nightmare if they don't have a job," Lordan explained to me as Kilo barked furiously at the falling snow, eager to be given something, anything to do. "She said if you teach a Mudi his job, he will do it, and he gets more excited about doing it than anything." That led to an introduction with a breeder in Hungary, a long plane ride from Alaska to Europe and a train trip to a village about two hours from Budapest to meet Kilo.
Most people assume that an avalanche rescue dog looks like the kind of animal that would be cast in an ad for a Swiss cough drop. A Saint Bernard perhaps, or maybe a nice, white husky? But no. Kilo is much smaller and scrappier looking than those stereotypical mountain dogs. With the ears of a fox and the long fur of a herding dog, he is quick, nimble, and hyper-aware on the mountain. Most importantly, he is lightweight, allowing it to ride on its ski patrol owner's shoulders during a rescue mission. "We put them in backpacks. It's easier on their joints not running them all over the mountain," Lordan explained.