Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Beloved Bailey

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As the days grow shorter and the temperatures drop, many are anticipating and preparing for the winter season at Stevens Pass. But there is one regular who will be taking it a lot easier on the slopes this season.

Bailey, the Avalanche Rescue dog, is ready for a slower pace as she begins her first winter season of retirement.

The Stevens Pass avalanche rescue dogs, or avy dogs, come to work every day with their handlers ready to be called out in case of an emergency.

After 11 years of working alongside the Ski Patrol, Bailey has earned her right to a slower pace.

Bailey's handler and owner and Stevens Pass Patrol Director, Angela Seidling, said that Bailey will still come to work with her.

"She'll spend more time hanging out in the base area and more time on the couch in the office," she said.

"I foresee us still getting out on the hill together this winter for maybe some promenade laps. And promenade is the green groomed run that gets you to the base area. The majority of it is quite flat, so she'll get carried out to promenade for some little glory laps down that run."

The biggest difference between being an active avy dog and retirement, besides more couch time, is that Bailey will no longer be called out for rescues.

Avalanche Rescue dogs go through an extensive training process that starts when they are puppies and takes about three to five seasons.

From the moment Bailey first came to work as a puppy, she just belonged there, Seilding said.

"Oh, gosh, Bailey has, it's like she was meant for this," she said. "Bailey has been all in with this job ever since the very beginning and has always loved training, even obedience training. I mean, she's kind of nerdy like that."

"She has a lot of the typical characteristics that labs have," she said. "She loves to eat, she loves to fetch, she loves to swim, she loves the snow. But she also has some kind of catlike characteristics like she doesn't seek out physical attention."

"She is pretty professional in the workplace," she said. "Like, oftentimes more professional than her human team members. She's been very driven and focused right from the start."

This year, Bailey will do a lot of PR work and help raise awareness for the avalanche rescue dog program, which is a nonprofit organization.

"So our dogs at Stevens Pass, their primary purpose is to be available to the skier if we were to ever have somebody buried in an avalanche inbound," Seidling said.

Dogs are often the quickest way to locate a buried skier. 

However, it is important to note that there has not been a single inbound burial in all of Bailey's 11 years of service, which means that their avalanche mitigation work has been effective, Seidling said.

Stevens Pass Avy Dogs started in 1993. At the time, there were only about a dozen trained avy dogs in the country.

Today, Stevens Pass has a pack of seven dogs in various stages of their careers. Since 1993, they have trained 20 dogs. Ski patrollers commit to the extra duty of training and maintaining Avy dogs.

Seilding said that Ski Patrollers love having their dogs.

"It's just such a fun part of what we're doing up there," she said. "Honestly, it's what's kept me at Stevens Pass for going on my 17th season now."

Quinn Propst: 509-731-3590 or quinn@ward.media


 

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