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Meet Murphy, Schweitzer Mountain’s avalanche dog in-training

You might remember Murphy as a tiny yellow lab puppy. She was born in February 2018 and is now training to be an avalanche rescue dog.

SANDPOINT, Idaho — A furry friend of Schweitzer Mountain Resort is all grown up and training for a very important job.

As Schweitzer pups Abbey and Annie practice racing to find and dig out a person’s jacket buried deep in the snow, Murphy stands on the sidelines watching.

She is learning how to be an avalanche rescue dog. The process for receiving that designation is a long one that includes many certifications, said Schweitzer marketing manager Dig Chrismer.

“She’ll probably have the cross, if all goes well, by the end of this season,” said Murphy’s owner, Leigh Bercaw.

You might remember Murphy as a tiny yellow lab puppy. She was born in late February 2018 arrived in Sandpoint about two months later, joining siblings Abbey and Annie.

Credit: Courtesy
Murphy as a puppy

During her year-and-a-half in North Idaho, Murphy has spent a lot of time bonding with her human.

“She is the light of my life,” Bercaw added.

But it isn’t all fun and games on the mountain. Murphy is learning from the best so she will be prepared to respond if a rescue call comes next season.

“One of the biggest training functions for me and Murphy is our relationship,” Bercaw said. "We would know our dogs well enough that I could see when she's found what she's looking for because we've played fetch millions and millions of times."

The goal, of course, is to never need to use the pup’s noses to rescue anybody in distress. Bercaw and other patrollers are tasked with making sure avalanches don’t happen at Schweitzer in the first place.

Credit: KREM
(From left to right) Abbey, Murphy and Annie with their owners on Schweitzer Mountain

In between avalanche control and training sessions, all three of the pups help teach children about safety.

Those who want to follow the dogs’ journey on social media can do so on their Instagram page, Schweitzer.avydogs.

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