Telluride Magazine winter/spring 2018-19

Page 42


puppy l ve meet “quill,” the latest in a long line of avalanche dogs By Martinique Davis


t the outset, Quill may seem like just a normal puppy. He runs with a goofy puppy gait, he chews on things, he likes to wrestle and play Tug-o-War. But what Quill’s future holds is far from typical, as the little guy is in training to become the Telluride Ski Patrol’s next avalanche rescue dog. Joining the ranks of the Telluride Ski Resort’s prestigious canine rescue team is no small feat, as the six-month-old Red Heeler/Golden Retriever mix must undergo specialized training to learn how to use his sense of smell to locate buried avalanche victims. But first, Quill must prove himself an


appropriate candidate—and with a job description that includes riding chairlifts, snowmobiles, and helicopters, working around avalanche-mitigating explosives, and being a model of dog obedience— Quill has his work cut out for him if he’s going to graduate to the level of Telluride avalanche dog. Quill’s next year of training will be critical to the development of his skills as a rescue dog, and that’s where his owner and handler, veteran ski patroller Lisa Chism, comes in. Chism has been a ski patroller at Telluride for 20 years, and for the last few seasons has been assisting with the group’s avalanche dog program. While she’s been

a dog owner most of her adult life, she’s never owned an avalanche dog, and says that the last few months training Quill has shown her how different raising a professional dog truly is. “Training a pet and training a working dog are two different things,” she says, noting that training a working dog begins much earlier than with a pet and requires her to be much more strict. “You’re going to ask them to do things a pet wouldn’t be asked to do, constantly putting them in uncomfortable situations. You really have to create that bond of trust so they know that when they’re with you, they’re safe.”