British Columbia

Radar the Rescue Dog inspires mountain safety book for children

The true story of Radar — Whistler's first avalanche rescue dog — has inspired a former ski patroller to write a book that teaches children how to be safe in the snow.

The children's book includes a foreword from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Radar, Whistler's first rescue dog, rides a chairlift with his owner and handler, Bruce Watt in 1979. (Rod Grange)

The true story of Radar — Whistler's first avalanche rescue dog — has inspired a former ski patroller to write a book that teaches children how to be safe in the snow.

Children become lost in the winter wilderness all too often, says author Janet Love Morrison, who has years of experience as an alpine caretaker and a member of the ski patrol on Whistler's mountains.

She hopes her book, Radar the Rescue Dog, will help children make better decisions when they are out skiing or tobogganing.

"I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to create mountain-safety awareness, and if we can teach them young, perhaps there won't be so many search and rescues operations with adults."

Radar, a black German shepherd, was Bruce Watt's dog and integral to his owner's initiative to create a training program for avalanche rescue dogs in the late 1970s. 

Life lessons

The book also aims to teach children how to stand up to peer pressure and why respecting nature is so important — life lessons they can use even when they are not outside playing in the snow.

"One of the core themes of the book is to stand in your power and not allow someone to influence you to do something you don't want to do," said Love Morrison.

Illustrator Zuzanna Riha Driediger says children and adults need to know how to recognize a dangerous situation.

"[The book teaches] having respect of the mountains, respect of the wilderness, and to recognize when you are in a scary situation and just knowing what to do with that."

Author Janet Love Morrison wrote the book, Radar the Rescue Dog to teach children how to respect nature and stay safe in the backcountry. (Zuzanna Riha Driediger and FriesenPress)

Avalanche rescue dogs are a valuable tool to help find people buried under snow. A live recovery by a rescue dog at the Fernie Alpine Resort in 2000 was the first of its kind, according to the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association website.

Driediger brought the story to life with her illustrations of Radar, a beloved icon in the Whistler ski community. She has also worked with search and rescue dogs in Whistler.

"Dogs are amazing through the power of their nose. They have an amazing ability to detect a person if they're buried underneath the snow."

In Trudeau's words

The book includes a foreword from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose youngest brother, Michel, died in an avalanche in B.C. in 1998.

Love Morrison says two-thirds of the royalties are going to the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association, and Trudeau was happy to help the cause.

"I knew that the Trudeau family was involved with avalanche education. So I just contacted Justin and he responded within two days and he was more than happy to participate in the education."

To listen to the full audio, click the link labelled: Radar the Rescue Dog teaches children backcountry safety.


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