SANDPOINT, Idaho — The Avalanche Dog Team at Schweitzer Mountain gained a new friend recently to allow one of their oldest and most good girls to retire.
Eight-year-old Annie and her ski patrol handler, Jeff Thompson, have been together since she was a puppy. Annie is Thompson's third avalanche dog.
"The level that we get to know each other and cue off each other and work together is pretty special," Thompson said.
Thompson said Annie's sweetness and her energy make her stand out from the other patrol dogs. However, she's having to learn to balance that energy after a health scare.
"Towards the end of a hard work day, Annie collapsed on the job, and at the time, we didn't really know what was the cause of it but she went down pretty hard," Thompson said. "She had more or less a heart attack."
Thompson and another ski patroller jumped in right away and got Annie off the mountain and to the vet as quickly as possible. Thankfully, Annie is okay and recovering on the mountain.
"She doesn't know she's hurt, so keeping her quiet right now is the hardest part," Thompson said.
Annie's so-called "puppy energy" is making it hard for her to take things easy, and the newest member of the avalanche team, Maisie, isn't necessarily helping her find that balance.
Maisie loves to play, especially with Annie.
"We have four dogs, including Maisie, and as, you know, Annie is getting a little older, so we want to keep the rotation going," said Galen May, a member of the ski patrol.
Maisie is starting her training small, finding gloves before learning to sniff out people up on the mountain.
The patrol hopes Maisie can be fully trained by next year, allowing her to take on some of Annie's workload as she gets closer to retirement.
"It's going to be a balance of her taking it easy, but also being able to still be a dog," Thompson said.
With her tests coming back all clear, however, Annie isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
"She will still be a mascot," Thompson said. "She will still be up here. She loves being around people, she loves this place."
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