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I would just like to thank RAB for the continuing support.  The next 5 months will be a testing period for us, Fjord and I have our final fire brigade search and rescue exams at the end of October and normally if all goes well we’ll be off to take part in the 3 week training course and qualifying exams at the ‘ANENA’ (Association Nationale pour l’Etude de la Neige et des Avalanches) to become a French avalanche search and rescue dog team.  With the latest events in Chamonix it only emphasises the need for qualified search and rescue dog teams in response to avalanches on every level.

Once the dog and naturally the dog handler (there has to be a strong bond for the team to function) has understood, assimilated, and passed the compulsory exams to work officially (on a voluntary basis) they are required by the French regulations to assist 6 training sessions on snow to be considered a functional team in avalanche search and rescue.   In addition this work is continually being recycled and re-enforced by other regular training exercises.

Below are a few photos of Fjord and I’s training sessions on snow last winter (2011-2012).

The work to reach the level to even be considered to be selected for the above final exams involves an immense commitment in many ways but, when one’s passionate about the profession one doesn’t count the hours invested!  Over the last year and a half I have seen Fjord go from stronger to stronger and it can’t be more than rewarding to see an animal take such pleasure in its work.  As soon as I put on my uniform and grab my ‘rescue’ backpack (a Podsacs daypack provided by Rab which I have filled with the essentials ranging from a first aid kit for the dog to a gourde and a soft pack water bowl to rehydrate him.) Fjord is beyond himself with anticipation of the work that will inevitably follow in the following hours during the training sessions.

During my last training session it was confirmed by my trainers that Fjord is ready for his first set of exams, that is, he has completely understood the task that is asked of him when searching for the victims.  The simulated searches take place in either an open space i.e. a forest, in a derelict building or under earthquake rubble.

The pressure is now on me to follow his example!!!  I have to be at ease with all the required technical jargon in French and do the correct investigation when arriving at the destination of a search.  Ironically in this sense an avalanche search and rescue can be a lot easier, with the avalanche itself delimiting the search zone!  So Caroline has a lot of homework to do over the next 3 months!

As I have stressed before it’s not only the knowledge and experience that enables us to be an effective search and rescue dog team.  Physically we have to be on tops to answer the demands of the terrain and the length of a potential search and rescue.  This is where in the next few months our endurance training will kick in with acceleration.  On the glacier at Les Deux Alpes we have to have the capacity to endure the 3 week training in very variable conditions, not mentioning the ski touring timed test.  As we all know the mountains can be kind but also very cruel at times, but with a good physical condition one can surmount most enduring climatic conditions.

I’ll let you how we get on this autumn………………..

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