1. #1
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    Loco madidus effercio in rutilus effercio.

    Default Loss Of The Original SAR Tech

    Twas a sad day in history when:

    St. Bernard fades as rescuer in snowBy Erica Bulman

    ASSOCIATED PRESS September 16, 2005

    BOURG-SAINT-PIERRE, Switzerland -- Blinded by fog or buried by snow, lost travelers can no longer count on the dogs of the Great St. Bernard Hospice to guide them to safety.

    The chubby white-and-brown puppies at the monastery where the storied breed originated no longer learn to rescue avalanche victims.

    In an age of heat sensors and helicopters, the dogs have became obsolete and the 12 pups are being raised to ensure the purity of their ancient pedigree.

    "It's a shame," said Marie-Helene Sbai, as she and her boyfriend shook the rain off their coats in the museum's entrance. "It's the entire dog's heritage that no longer exists. It's clear that they weren't really rescuing people anymore."

    St. Bernards, raised by the hospice's religious order since the 17th century, are credited with saving some 2,000 pilgrims traveling between Switzerland and Italy over the centuries.

    A St. Bernard was last used in a search around 1975, said the friars. Upkeep of the gentle, slobbering beasts was expensive and time-consuming. So the dogs were sold.

    In April, two foundations were created to care for the dogs and build a museum in their honor.

    The Barry of the Great Saint Bernard Foundation, which bought the dogs, was set up in January with $656,000 donated by Christine Cerletti, a singer in the northern Swiss city of Basel.

    It is named after a St. Bernard that lived in the monastery from 1800 to 1812 and helped save more than 40 people.

    A second foundation created by former Geneva banker Bernard de Watteville and his wife, Caroline, is building a museum 22 miles away in Martigny, at the foot of the pass on the Swiss side where the dogs have spent winters for the five decades since their rescue duties began to dwindle.

    The sale of the dogs was on the condition they be returned to the hospice every summer for the tourist season.

    At the monastery atop the Alpine pass, the St. Bernards live a cloistered, rather humdrum life.

    They are kept in metal cages on a bleak gravel lot outside in good weather.

    When conditions deteriorate -- the pass has wind and snow 245 days of the year and is renowned for sudden weather changes -- the heavy-jowled dogs silently stare at visitors from small glass enclosures inside the museum.

    The dogs are taken for daily walks of up to two hours. But other than that, there is little to do.

    "I find it heartbreaking," Muriel Saels, a visitor from Brussels, said after paying the entry fee of 7 Swiss francs ($5.55) to see the dogs. "They seem to lack human affection though they seem well-cared for. It makes you want to kidnap the puppies.

    "Sure, dogs need a lot of sleep, but they need to go out and run around free," she said. "The puppies need to discover nature, drink from a stream, get muddy, jump in puddles, sniff flowers, learn to be afraid of cars. Life is in nature, not in a glass cage."

    But letting the dogs roam freely isn't an option in a breeding program. The females would run the risk of being impregnated by local dogs or those belonging to tourists.

    There are a dozen adult female dogs in the program and one male, Tasso. This year, there were two litters of six pups each. They were born in Martigny and joined their elders at the hospice in late June because until then the pass was too chilly for them.

    Dog lovers willing to meet the $1,585 price tag can buy a puppy from the foundation, if they can get through the red tape. Applicants considered suitable meet with a foundation representative. After a thorough review of the application, selected candidates are put on a waiting list.

    Large, strong, muscular animals with powerful heads, St. Bernards are one of the heaviest breeds, according to the American Kennel Club. The males weigh 140 to 170 pounds, but sometimes reach 200 pounds.

    A fit and trained St. Bernard can pull a load on wheels of more than 3,000 pounds, so an untrained dog easily can drag its master on a wild chase around the neighborhood upon sighting a cat.

    And, unsurprisingly for a breed that developed in the Alps, the dogs don't do well in hot climates. They require weekly brushing, with more grooming during their twice yearly shedding.

    Still, St. Bernards were the 37th-most-popular dog in 2004, selling better than Newfoundlands, Irish setters, border collies and Dalmatians, the American Kennel Club said. Labradors, golden retrievers and German shepherds ranked as the top three.

    The St. Bernard's popularity likely comes from being a symbol of rescue and solace known around the world, even if that famous whisky cask around their necks is a myth dreamed up by 19th-century artist Edwin Landseer.

    Even though they are no longer needed for rescues, visitors to Bourg-Saint-Pierre say there is something special about being able to see the dogs in the place where the breed won its fame.

    "I am Swiss and I am proud to have this heritage. The St. Bernards are as quintessentially Swiss as chocolate, watches or the Alps," said Laurent Zimmermann, a Genevan who came up the 8,100-foot pass to visit the hospice museum with his two young sons.

    I had one as a child - Benny was a great dog until she figured out how to squeeze through the balcony bars and ran off. She was one of the most gentle dogs I have ever had in my home.
    If you don't do it RIGHT today, when will you have time to do it over? (Hall of Fame basketball player/coach John Wooden)

    "I may be slow, but my work is poor." Chief Dave Balding, MVFD

    "Its not Rocket Science. Just use a LITTLE imagination." (Me)

    Get it up. Get it on. Get it done!

    impossible solved cotidie. miracles postulo viginti - quattuor hora animadverto

    IACOJ member: Cheers, Play safe y'all.

  2. #2
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    What a shame that these gentle and talented dogs have been pushed out of the job that they helped to define in the first place. I have never had the pleasure of seeing these dogs working but I bet it is absolutely amazing.

    My friend had a ST. B. and he was great with the kids...it wasn't unusual for the kids to go cuddle up to the dog for their afternoon nap. He also pulled a toboggan or wagon when the family went for walks.
    If you are willing to teach;
    I am willing to learn.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the story, I enjoyed it.

  4. #4
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    RspctFrmCalgary's Avatar
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    Now in Victoria, BC. I'm from beautiful Jasper Alberta in the heart of the Can. Rockies - will always be an Albertan at heart!


    I think it is sad and shameful the way these dogs are being treated. Live in cages and glass enclosures? *shaking head*

    Dogs are still an important part of Search and Rescue operations in so many places around the world, that's why I have such a hard time believing that nothing more can be done for these St. Bernards. Or should I word it "I have a hard time believing a St. Bernard can't do anything more for us"???!!!

    I remember in elementary school in Jasper when there would be demonstrations by the Parks Canada wardens with their rescue dogs. Used to see Marmot Basin avalanche staff out on the ski hill with their dogs too.

    Perhaps Marty could provide some insight as to whether or not there is a similar program at Panorama.


    CARDA- Background and Training and Certification Standards
    March 24 1996

    "The search dog is not simply an animal, he is the special, the best friend of the handler and in general terms, the friend of all persons. Therefore he must be treated as such; he must be cared for and trained." (Canadian Avalanche Rescued Dog Association Certification Standards, 1988. )

    Avalanches are an unavoidable hazard of the mountains of Canada and unfortunately an average of twelve people in Canada each year are killed in avalanches. Consequently, volunteer avalanche search and rescue dogs are a valuable resource. In Europe volunteer avalanche rescue dog teams have been used for over 50 years with live recoveries to their credit on virtually an annual basis.

    In BC and Alberta various RCMP canine units are trained in avalanche rescue and provide this search and rescue service. RCMP units, however, are generally located in urban areas and because of their location, limited numbers, and primarily law enforcement responsibilities it is recognized that volunteers dedicated to avalanche rescues are a valuable asset.

    Properly trained avalanche search and rescue dog teams can be more efficient than SAR teams. The dog teams can search an area of approximately 1 Ha in 30 min. for a coarse search, and 1-2 hrs. for a fine search. In comparison, a probe line would take 4 hrs for a coarse search, and 20 hrs. for a fine search. This is very important as any precious time lost increases the likelihood of a body recovery, rather than the recovery of a live person.

    The Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association ( CARDA ) was founded in 1978, and is an organization dedicated to saving the lives of avalanche victims. Made up of volunteers who have passed an intensive training program, CARDA strives to maintain a network of efficient avalanche search and rescue dog teams in Canada. The training program was initially patterned after the German Berghwacht dog program. A certification Standard was developed in conjunction with the RCMP, Parks Canada, and the Provincial Emergency Program of BC.

    More from that site: http://www.carda.bc.ca/

    Avalanche Rescue Dog Program at Fernie Alpine Resort

    The Avalanche Rescue Dog program is an integral part of the snow and avalanche program of the Fernie Professional Ski Patrol. We have a long and proud history with this program and are striving to maintain well-trained teams and a strong roster of up and coming canines and their handlers. Our recently retired Senior Avalanche Rescue Dog team of Keno and Robin Siggers were credited with the first live find by a CARDA dog team in December 2000. A lift operator was buried in a pre-season avalanche for 20+ minutes and will probably never forget the heroic efforts of Keno. His mother still treats Robin and Keno on every anniversary of the avalanche.

    More from that site:


    Check out all the links under this page .... http://www.sarbc.org/dog1.html

    Search (SAR) Dogs

    Search and Rescue Society of British Columbia

    The Search (SAR) Dog section
    This is a new usenet-like Discussion area, with support for threaded discussions, keyword searches, reply quoting, icons, etc.
    Tracking Trailing Scenting SAR Dog Discussion Forum
    Search K9 Articles

    Using Dogs as Ground Search Resources

    General Info (77 Facts)

    Dog Term Glossary

    Dog Training - General

    Picking a Dog Handler

    Water Search

    Understanding Search Dogs

    Search K9 Sites to Visit
    911BC K-9 Search and Recovery Team
    1st Special Response Group
    Absaroka Search Dogs Home Page
    ARDA-American Rescue Dog Association
    Arizona Search Track and Rescue, Inc.
    Avalanche Rescue Dog's World
    AvaDogs Alaska
    Beartooth Search Dogs, Montana
    Brazos Valley Texas Search & Rescue Team
    Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association
    Canine Outfitters
    Canine Search and Recovery
    Canine Search and Rescue
    CHESARDA Chesapeake Search & Rescue Dogs
    Disaster And Wilderness Ground Searchers, Inc. K-9
    Durham Search and Rescue Dog Team
    ÉLETJEL Rescue Team from Hungary
    Independent K-9 Search & Rescue, Jesup, GA.
    Iowa Search & Rescue K9 Teams
    Jefferson County Search Dog Association
    K-9 Response SAR
    K-9 Search Rescue Unit and Training Center
    K-9 Alert Search and Rescue Dogs, Inc
    Les chiens de la Gendarmerie
    Leerburg Home Page K9 training - books & videos
    Louisiana Search And Rescue Dog Team
    Lowland Search Dogs
    Lowland Search Dogs - Thames Valley
    Michigan Search Dog Association
    Mid-Atlantic D.O.G.S. Search and Rescue Team
    National Bloodhound Association of Switzerland (NBAS) Excellent site - Good Info!
    National Bloodhound Training Institute
    National Disaster Search Dog Foundation Home Page
    NC SAR Dog Association, Incorporated
    Obstacles, Inc. - 800.281.1601
    Ohio K-9 Search Team, Inc.
    People and Paws SAR
    RCMP Civilian Search Dog Association - Alberta
    Excellent resource for civilian SAR K9 and Handler RCMP training standards, and much more.
    REDOG Homapage
    RiverBend Search and Rescue Dog Association
    SAR dogs Australia
    SAR-Dogs Resource web
    Sarasota K-9 Search And Rescue Home Page
    Search and Rescue Dog's Group from Madrid, Spain
    Sedgwick County Emergency Management K9 Search Team
    Third Coast Canine Search and Rescue
    WCSAR - Wake Canine Search & Rescue, Inc., Raleigh, NC, USA - Homepage
    Westhaven's Raven V Salmans
    U.K.S.A.R.D ( United Kingdom Search And Rescue Dogs )
    World Kennel Club/Cliff Culp


    I'm sure I could go on and on, but surely my point is getting across. Again, it is heartbreaking to read about how the "Original SAR Tech" is reduced to being on display in a "zoo". Do I have the answer as to what could be done? Nope.

    Edit: Forgot to post this picture from the Parks Canada website
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    Last edited by RspctFrmCalgary; 09-17-2005 at 01:28 PM.
    September 11th - Never Forget

    I respect firefighters and emergency workers worldwide. Thank you for what you do.

    Honorary Flatlander


  5. #5
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    Panorama, British Columbia, Canada


    I beg to differ on the opinion that dogs are becoming obsolete.

    We (and all major Intrawest resorts) maintain and support avy dogs in our snow safety divisions. While technology does speed searches, dogs are still one of the fastest ways to find casualties in a slide.

    We have a 5yr old German Shepard named Sheena who belongs to one of our senior ski patrol who is amazing to watch. She does have a hip problem, so she is being replaced with a younger Shepard as soon as he passes the exam.

    We also have a local St. Bernard "mascot" who roams the village in the winter. He is the pet of a local Dutch family, and very gentle with the kids. Everyone loves getting their picture taken with him, and we have actually had to go and retrieve him several times from over-eager kids who bring him home to their parents.
    Last edited by mcaldwell; 09-17-2005 at 02:17 PM.
    Never argue with an Idiot. They drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience!


  6. #6
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    Loco madidus effercio in rutilus effercio.


    In regards to this story and others of a similar nature: if it ain't broke - dont fix it." The dogs have always done a good job, and yes, by all means augment them with tech stuff, but like MC says, they are still a wonderful tool. And a tool that might be low tech, but still works is still a good tool.

    Kinda like hyraulics.... when the line blows (like I saw happen earlier today at Brandywine VFD, MD) ya gotta be able to switch hands and keep going.
    If you don't do it RIGHT today, when will you have time to do it over? (Hall of Fame basketball player/coach John Wooden)

    "I may be slow, but my work is poor." Chief Dave Balding, MVFD

    "Its not Rocket Science. Just use a LITTLE imagination." (Me)

    Get it up. Get it on. Get it done!

    impossible solved cotidie. miracles postulo viginti - quattuor hora animadverto

    IACOJ member: Cheers, Play safe y'all.

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