PHOENIX — At Arizona Snowbowl in Flagstaff, a young puppy named Ava is training to become an avalanche rescue dog.
The 11-week old golden retriever is in her third week on the mountain, training with ski patroller and dog-handler Hailey Hagerty. Snowbowl’s newest furry employee trains with Hagerty to, eventually, become certified to find people buried under snow after avalanches.
“She really knows it’s time to work when we put a vest on her,” Hagerty said.
Hagerty said she keeps Ava with her at home and trains with her at work. On the mountain, Ava stays with ski patrol all day, attending meetings, riding chairlifts, and resting at the top of the mountain. She’s currently learning to adjust to overwhelming situations, people, chairlifts, snowmobiles and more.
Ava also is working on obedience, along with hide-and-seek games called runaways.
“I think she’s going to make a great dog,” Hagerty said. “She’s finding people when we play hide-and-seek, she’s great with everybody, she’s staying calm in all these testing situations we’ve been putting her through. So we have high hopes she’s going to be a great avalanche dog.”
According to Hagerty, avalanche dogs aren’t allowed to be certified until they’re at least one year old, but she said the training process would take between one to two years.
But for now, Ava is learning the ropes to become certified and potentially save lives.
“She gets to be brought out throughout the day just for little short training sessions, keeping her happy and engaged,” Hagerty said.
KTAR’s Ali Vetnar contributed to this report.
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