Sunday, April 21, 2024

Fundraiser promises plenty of dog-gone fun

Staff Writer | April 2, 2024 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — It, quite simply, promises plenty of dog-gone fun.

Not only does today's raffle, pizza, and beer fundraiser at Powder Hound Pizza's downtown location benefit Schweitzer's avalanche dog program, but a few members of the team will be on-site to lend a hand, make that paw, of support to all of those who stop by. The event will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

"If you love dogs, especially Schweitzer’s avalanche dogs, we have the event for you," Tom Eddy of the Friends of Schweitzer Ski Patrol said of the fundraiser.

Not only will those stopping by be able to mingle with the program's wonderful four-footed heroes, they can also enter a raffle for some unique prizes such as a custom, handmade cribbage board and the chance to have one of the pups find you next winter.

Schweitzer officials will bring its avalanche dogs — Annie, Abbey, Murphy, and Maisie as well as new pup Reba — to the fundraiser. 

All five have emerged as strong ambassadors for avalanche safety, if only because their cuteness is such a magnet, Schweitzer Ski Patrol and avalanche dog program officials said.

It is more common than not for skiers to come up to meet the dogs and, as part of the introduction process, learn more about avalanche safety in the bargain.

“That’s another advantage of the dogs,” ski patrol member Jeff Thompson said previously. “They generate a lot of conversations, which opens the door to a lot of educational opportunities.”

But don't be fooled — these dogs are first responders who are trained to save lives.

Program officials said the presence of avalanche rescue dogs at Schweitzer can be attributed to the increased popularity of the resort — and a growing population of people who love to ski out of bounds. While more and more people carry avalanche beacons, the dogs are trained to find and rescue skiers who get caught in an avalanche and need a helping paw.

Just such a scenario happened in the 2017-’18 ski season when a real avalanche situation trapped a skier without a beacon — and a Schweitzer avalanche dog came to the rescue.

Initially buried under about five feet of snow, the skier was about to poke a ski pole and glove through the surface. They were then rescued by one of the avalanche dogs.

Searching for someone in a similar situation can take up to two hours if they are not carrying a beacon, officials said previously. That timeline is condensed to 20 minutes or less when a trained rescue dog is scouring the debris field after an avalanche.

“I think it’s important to point out that skiing is safe,” Thompson said previously. “Our job on ski patrol is to mitigate any danger and we do everything we can to make that happen. But Mother Nature sometimes has a different plan — that’s where the dogs come in.

“They are here for those few, rare times when things get away from us.”

While each rescue dog starts with a primary handler, by the time they are certified and get a bit of experience behind them, handlers take a backup role in emergencies.

The avalanche dogs are dedicated to their community, working hard to keep them safe and spreading the message of avalanche safety. Now, it is the community's turn to support the hand-working pups at the today's fundraiser.

All donations and proceeds from the raffle will help support further training and educational opportunities for the Schweitzer Avalanche Rescue Dog program. 


    Schweitzer officials will bring some of its avalanche dogs — Annie, Abbey, Murphy, and Maisie, pictured above, to today's fundraiser.