BOZEMAN, Mont. – Between avalanches, lost hikers, skiers, and snowmobilers, Gallatin County Search and Rescue keep busy during the winter months.
And when they respond to incidents, they have special team members with four legs to help.
At home, they’re a typical household pet, but when Search and Rescue is called out, the K-9’s are on the job.
“On our way to a search we’ll often tell them the story about what we’re going to look for,” said Gallatin County Search and Rescue Team member, Bonnie Whitman. “And then you’re talking out loud and your dog is listening but it helps you to clarify things. Once again it’s all about us trying to be a strong team,”
Whitman said several hours go into training the K-9 team members and it’s truly training for the human team members too, for them to better understand the dogs and work together to be a stronger team. The dogs have been training to ride snowmobiles with the search and rescue team members to be prepared for whatever happens this winter.
“Responding to an avalanche or a search where they needed to ride, whether it’s an ATV or a snowmobile we don’t want it to be their first time. We want it to be very comfortable because they’re stressed enough as it is so if we can take all of that stress out, to begin with then it lets them focus on their job, ” Whitman said.
The K-9s make a difference in the teams’ search efforts.
“For us, they’re really helpful,” Whitman said. “They do their best, they are another resource. We have so many different resources that we use but the dogs have no agenda they aren’t thinking logically that we often do. They are just training what they’re made to do and they’re hunting for what we ask them to hunt for and so they just put everything into it and do the best that they can.”
The dogs begin to train as puppies and are considered fully trained by two years old.