Gonzalo is an instructor at the Asociación Argentina de Instructores de Esquí, Snowboard y Pisteros Socorristas (AADIDESS) and dedicated search and rescue dog handler. Together with his six-year-old dog India, he helps to find buried avalanche victims. They are part of the ski patrol team of the resort Cerro Catedral Bariloche. This is their story.
India is a Border Collie and comes from a kennel in Bahía Blanca, Argentina. “I picked her up when she was 45 days old,” Gonzalo says, beaming with joy. Since then, the two have been inseparable. India travelled with Gonzalo across Argentina and accompanied him wherever his work took him. The change of location did not hinder her training as a search and rescue dog at all. On the contrary, she was able to continue her training routine with Gonzalo without interruption and socialised to a variety of people, animals, and settings.
The first 1.5 – 2 years of training focused on basic obedience, building a solid search foundation, and exposure to varied sights, sounds, noises, and social situations. This includes ski lift and snowmobile rides, helicopters, walking on varied surfaces, and interacting with crowds and children. “It’s a lot to take in for a dog, but I always made sure there is plenty of quiet time built into our day too,” explains Gonzalo.
In 2017, India and Gonzalo successfully passed the International IRO V-test in Avalanche Search. This first exam is the aptitude test, in which dexterity, resilience and other prerequisites are tested. After the first foundation stone was laid, the team completed further national tests in Argentina. “India is such a great companion. To see with how much joy, she pursues her task as an avalanche dog makes me very happy,” Gonzalo says proudly.
The two have participated in eight missions so far and will continue to help save lives, also in the future. There is nothing faster or more efficient than a dog trained to locate people trapped deep under snow. Gonzalo tells us, “There have been more rescue calls in recent years for two reasons; on the one hand, we are seeing more avalanches due to global warming, and on the other hand, there are simply more people in the mountains. Another factor that also influences the increase in rescue calls is that people are sometimes not sufficiently prepared for a mountain tour, either physically or mentally.” For this reason, Gonzalo strongly believes that every ski resort should have a search and rescue dog team on site.
We are incredibly grateful for their great commitment and look forward to more exciting stories from their lives.
Would you like to get an insight into the work of India and Gonzalo?
Then watch this video.
Photos: Gonzalo Fano