Highly trained dogs first donned their rescue vests in Switzerland in the 1930s, but it wasn’t until Whistler patroller Bruce Watt survived an avalanche burial in 1978 that the system hatched in Canada.
B.C. author Janet Love Morrison has picked up this fascinating story and has used it as the basis of her new children’s book, Radar the Rescue Dog.
Love Morrison first got to know Watt when she interviewed him for an article on the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association (CARDA) for Ski Canada magazine in 1996.
“I interviewed Bruce because he’s one of the co-founders of CARDA and because Radar was Whistler’s first civilian validated avalanche rescue dog,” says Love Morrison. “Basically I wanted to take Radar and create a children’s story with my intent solely to create mountain safety awareness.”
Once she had approval from Watt and CARDA, Love Morrison wrote Radar the Rescue Dog and set about getting it published.
The story follows ski patroller Bruce Watt and his canine partner Radar in search of three children who got lost outside the ski area boundary in spite of their parents’ warnings. Filled with educational information for children regarding mountain safety, this endearing tale captures Radar’s ability to handle any situation that he and Watt faced.
As Love Morrison discovered in 1996, however, there just wasn’t a great cultural consciousness about the risks of avalanches and value of backcountry safety. In current times however, the issues and risks surrounding backcountry riding are all too evident and so the book is taking off.
“There’s an awareness about the whole backcountry and ski safety and mountain safety in general,” says Love Morrison, “so it was actually perfect that it never got published back then because now the consciousness is more dialed in.”
In fact, Love Morrison took a chance and contacted MP and leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, Justin Trudeau with hopes he would write a forward to the book. He was a clear choice for Love Morrison, as Trudeau’s youngest brother, Michel, was killed in an avalanche in 1998. Trudeau agreed and submitted a powerful forward that stresses the importance of teaching children about mountain safety.
Love Morrison will be doing a reading of the story for the students at Sun Peaks, and she has plans to take Radar’s story to the communities of Whistler, Pemberton and Revelstoke spreading the mountain safety word.
If you’re interested in getting a copy of Radar the Rescue Dog yourself, visit amazon.com or have your local book store order you a copy.
“A very generous portion (of proceeds from the sales of Radar the Rescue Dog) will be going to CARDA,” explains Love Morrison, who is a firm supporter of the organization.
Will we be hearing from Radar again?
“It’d be kind of fun to have a series, and maybe Radar goes to different ski hills like Sun Peaks and Lake Louise, we’ll see,” says Love Morrison.
Put this one on your Christmas list, and share the story of the birth of a Canadian success story.