The Handlers & Hounds of AADs

Matt Gunn
Having ski patrolled for 15 years Matt has retired from full time patrolling to pursue his dream of setting a New Zealand first in Aspiring Avalanche Dogs and to spend more time with his young family. Matt and partner Em also own and operate an events lighting company based out of Wanaka.

Matt Gunn
Handler: Matt Gunn

3/4 Border and 1/4 Rough Collie cross, Rocket is a friendly hound with a loving nature is a real character! Full of energy with a strong desire to please and love of playing games he is a real weapon Rocket is proving to be very popular at our fundraising events!

Callum Grant
The Big CG is a senior patroller at TC, with years of experience and is a mountain guide during the summer months. These skills make Cal a real asset to our group. Having a skill for resurrecting old bicycles from the grave Cal has started a flourishing business renting pushbikes to tourists in the Wanaka region.

Callum and Zeppelin
Handler: Callum Grant

An energetic and curious both at home and at work in the snow. He has shown excellent drive and natural ability to search and work with his handler. He also loves a long swim and singing along to Italian opera. His friendly nature makes him a ‘pat magnet’ with the kids and adults alike.

Andy Wardell
After a number of years as a full time ski patroller, Andy now works part time at TC while pursing a building career. A jack of all trades and a legendary, Andy remaining - to putting in the hard yards to keep Tuki fit and maintain his operational status.

Andy Wardell
Handler: Andi Wardell

Part Long Haired Pointer and part Black Lab Tuki comes from gun-dog stock and is proving to be quite the character. A steady as she goes without much fuss kinda hound with a great nose and a keen disposition, Tuki is the Jonny Cash of the gang!

Brendan Kearns (Doons)
As a part of the local hardcore having skied at TC since Adam was a cowboy, Brendan nows with his young family in the home he helped to build in Luggate. Second in charge on Treble Cone ski patrol and a consummate mountain professional he is a huge asset to the team. Now on the lookout for a pup to take Millie's place, Doon will be back in the game soon…watch this space!

Brendan Kearns
The Matriarch of AAD, Blizzid retired at the end of the 2011 season and is now living out her senior years in front of the log fire and on the sunny spot on the deck at Matts place. She still tries to round up the odd frisbee and keeps the young dogs in line. 2015 will probably be her last time around the sun but she will go down in history as Treble Cones first every avo-dog…good Blizz!

Avalanche Dog Retires to Light Duties, The News 6/10/11

No longer with us, Millie was a strong and determined hound with unstoppable drive. She was a real asset to the team in her ten years as an operational search dog. Doons’s was deployed on six occasions and in all situations was able to determine that there was no one to find… a real asset indeed! Millie loved people almost as much as she loved search and was often seen outside the Patrol hut at Treble Cone in her Doggles lapping up the attention. She is missed but her memory lives on.

In memory - Zeppelin (2007-2011)
Tragedy struck on November 2011 with the sudden loss of Zepp. His death struck a significant blow to our team, not only in the loss of a team member but the tragic circumstances in which Zepp died. It serves as a reminder to us all to be vigilant about keeping our dogs safe and secure. Zepp is dearly missed by Callum and us all, he was such an affectionate dog with huge personality and was an exceptional avalanche dog.

"Dog's death a warning" Wanaka Sun, 4/11/11).

A search dog team is just that... a team. It is the handler's job to get to the site safely, quickly while maintaining the dogs energy levels. Once on site the handler then establishes that the site is safe before assessing the wind direction and creating a search plan. Search techniques are based on deploying the dog across the slope down-wind of likely burial areas.  

Typically the dog will search across the slope until it finds the scent, then it will turn sharply and head straight up the slope to the point in which the scent disappears under the snow. At this point the dog will then start digging and barking, staying on that spot until the handler reaches it to take over the digging, or marks the spot for others to dig while the handler re-deploys the dog to continue the search.  

Although most breeds suitable for search are very keen to work and satisfy their owner, all handlers rely on rewarding their dogs to get the most out of them. Dogs are rewarded with a tug toy that they only ever get to play with when training or searching. They are trained in such a way that they think the toy is under the snow with the buried person.  

After a couple of years and many many hours of training a team is ready to be assessed by NZLandSAR and the NZ Police to see if they make the grade to be listed as an 'operational' team. At this point they go on the call-out list and can be deployed by the Police in an emergency situation - ready to save lives!
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