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'Talking' avalanche dogs help spread message on backcountry safety

The Summit County Rescue Group has come up with a unique way to get backcountry safety messages out to more people this winter.

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. — Heading into the winter, Anna Debattiste and the Summit County Rescue Group knew it would be a busy year.

Ski areas were limiting capacity, which was sending more people into the backcountry where avalanche conditions have been dangerous. This has made life-saving information about conditions more important than ever.

“The question was, how do we get people to listen to us?” Debattiste asked.

To reach more people, the rescue team started enlisting help from the four-legged members of the team, using certified avalanche dogs to spread the message about conditions in the backcountry.

The dogs, like Kena and Charger, are getting on social media with serious talk embedded in cute posts.

The dogs are in videos that make it look like they are talking, a cute way to get out serious information that’s posted on the Summit County Rescue Group's social media pages on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, alongside more traditional posts.

“It is serious information ... situational messages with what’s going on with snowpack and with the CAIC warnings or accidents,” Debattiste said.

She said she hopes that people will turn up the volume on the posts and listen to what the dogs have to say, and that the message might save lives.

"We feel like if we can reach a few people who wouldn’t be listening to the traditional messaging, it will be well worth it,” Debattiste said.

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