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Avalanche Dogs

Jeff Eckland now sports a tattoo of Doc (reunited above) on his chest. (Photo by Keoki Flagg)

Dave Paradysz is a ski patroller in South Lake Tahoe, CA. When a roommate gave him a Golden Retriever puppy, he decided to get him some obedience training. He wanted to do something with his new Golden, so he figured that because of his job, the dog should become an avalanche rescue dog. Paradysz began training Doc when he was 11 weeks old and by the time he was 11 months old, he was ready to work.

Jeff Eckland drives a snow-grooming machine at Kirkwood Ski Resort on weekends and was caught by an avalanche. The snow smashed him into a tree and he suffered a broken back and ribs. He says that he was folded up backwards and couldn't move a finger. Eckland was buried for nearly 15 minutes under 5 feet of heavy, wet snow. "I was buried way down there against a tree and was close to blacking out when I felt this paw hit my back", says Eckland. "I knew it was him. Without Doc, it probably would have been several hours before they found me. I'm pretty sure I would have died. That dog is the greatest!"

"A dog can search a slide area in 30 minutes that would take a team of 10 good probers six to eight hours to cover", says veteran skier Dave McConnell. "A dog can mean the difference between life and death. I've seen my Golden Retriever, Kiva, find someone during a drill in three minutes or less."

Doc received lots of hugs and pats all around after finding Eckland, who later threw a party for him. To further show his appreciation for the Golden, Eckland had a likeness of Doc tattooed on the left side of his chest to remember the wonderful dog who saved his life.