Glenshee pooch becomes UK’s first ever full-time avalanche rescue dog

Bodie the dog becomes the UK's first full-time avalance rescue dog.
Bodie the dog becomes the UK's first full-time avalance rescue dog.
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As a youngster, she experienced first hand the dangers of winter time in one of Scotland’s most spectacular if unforgiving glens, spending two days stranded in a snowdrift until her whimpering alerted a passerby.

Now a fully grown adult, Bodie the springer spaniel collie cross is ready to return the favour after qualifying as the UK’s first ever full-time avalanche rescue dog.

The eight-year-old, who was raised on the slopes of Glenshee Ski Centre, is now working at the Aberdeenshire resort after undergoing intensive training with the Search & Rescue Dog Association Scotland.

Able to cover a distance of four to six miles an hour, she has already become a valued member of Glenshee’s mountain rescue team, a source of immense pride for her owner Kate Hunter.

Ms Hunter, the head of Glenshee’s ski patrol, adopted Bodie when she was just a pup and got into the habit of taking her to her workplace in the great outdoors.

But in 2011, Ms Hunter was skiing ahead of Bodie, then just ten months old, when she suddenly disappeared.

Bodie, it turned out, had plunged into an eight-foot deep snow hole and was entombed there for close to 48 hours.

One of Ms Hunter’s friends happened to stumble across the pup, who was bedraggled, tired and hungry. However, she was otherwise unscathed by the experience. If anything, it turned out, she was inspired by it.

Bodie only started training to become a search and rescue dog last year, after the Search & Rescue Dog Association Scotland partnered up with the British Association of Ski Patrollers. This March she passed her tests with flying colours, much to Ms Hunter’s delight.

“She loves it and is a hit with the skiers and is well liked amongst staff and especially loves the cafe,” she said. “But I wanted to give her a special role at Glenshee because she had been here so long.

“Bodie, along with the ski patrollers, will provide a rapid response for any avalanche within the ski area. Her role is extremely vital especially during the winter season where Scotland is at risk from avalanches.”

Indeed, Bodie’s extensive training allows her to quickly flag up flashpoints to rescue teams on Glenshee by barking when she arrives at the scene and helping to dig out those skiers and snowboarders in trouble.

Her finely tuned sense of smell, Ms Hunter said, would be a key asset on the slopes.

“Her nose is worth a million transceivers sometimes,” the 63-year-old explained. “It’s just incredible.” While mountain rescue dogs are brought to assist with emergencies across Scotland, Bodie will be based permanently at Glenshee, searching for human scents detectable through snow and air.

It is, Ms Hunter said, a uniquely important role.

“The dogs are based at ski areas compared to normal mountain rescue dogs who work with the mountain rescue teams and need to be brought in from outside, so they are crucial to the work of mountain rescue teams,” she said.

A spokesman for the British Association of Ski Patrollers said with the avalanche season underway, Bodie’s help would prove invaluable.

“Anyone who has been to a major avalanche knows what this means,” he said. “A dog on scene immediately is a great tool for clearing slopes at the end of the day and a handy bit of kit for finding those lost off piste-ers.”