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JoAnna Lou
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Olympic Dogs
Working pups on the sidelines help make the games safe

I’m still hoping that agility will one day join the equestrian events at the Olympics. But, as it turns out, there are many dogs currently in Vancouver, playing an even more important role at the games.   

A group of American and Canadian canines and handlers are in Vancouver, ready to assist in rescue efforts should there be an avalanche during the competition. 

Being an avalanche rescue team is no easy task, and comes with unique challenges, such as riding in a chair lift and rappelling out of a helicopter. The stringent standards put forth by the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association (CARDA) includes a test that requires dogs to find clothing buried overnight under over two feet of snow.

According to CARDA, a search dog’s sensitive nose and stamina makes it possible to cover one hectare of snow in 30 minutes. The same task would take a human team almost four hours.

For a person buried under the snow, the difference of mere minutes can mean the difference between life and death. It’s amazing, despite all of the technology humans have, that there are just some things that canines can do better.

Avalanche dogs aren’t the only working canines present in Vancouver. Explosive detection and police dogs are also there, helping to create a safe environment for both spectators and athletes. 

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JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

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