Happy 10th birthday, Aspiring Avalanche Dogs

Aspiring Avalanche Dogs and their owner/ trainers: Brendan Kearns with Tussock, Callum Grant with Zeffer, Andy Wardell with Tuki and Matt Gunn with Rocket. Credit: AAD

A fundraiser event generating $5,000 for local charity Aspiring Avalanche Dogs (AAD), took place at the b.social café at Anderson Heights last Saturday night.

The fund was a gratefully received tenth birthday present for the Treble Cone-based registered charity that provides support and succession for four avalanche-dog teams into the future.

Aspiring Avalanche Dogs’ chairman and founder Matt Gunn said the money raised would go toward the charity’s annual insurance and fuel costs, plus support the dog handlers with the vet bills for their hard-working dogs.

Starting his ski patrol career at Ohau in 1992, Gunn then moved to Treble Cone in 1998, where he and Blizzid became the ski-fields first avalanche dog team in 2000. Gunn maintains a strong connection with TC Patrol, where he still works part-time while being the operations manager for the AAD team.

The other AAD team members are Callum Grant. Andy Wardell and Brendan Kearns.

Gunn said the funds were hugely appreciated. AAD was a non-profit organisation, which meant none of the highly trained dog teams, which were all-volunteer members of NZLandSAR Dogs and could be rapidly deployed anytime received a wage.

“However, we are not just committed to being the ‘ambulance at the bottom of the cliff’ and through educating school children, Polytech and community groups we believe we have the ideal vehicle to educate people about the hazards of the backcountry,” he said.

“The areas we cover include, basic avalanche awareness, the Snow Responsibility Code, responsible dog ownership and how to meet, greet and read dog body language… if education is power, AAD has the potential to be very powerful.”

It is not a bad office to work in, according to Gunn.

“We feel fortunate that we do what we do in this amazing place, surrounded by incredible people. We work with our dogs in one of the most beautiful regions in the world. Our reward is being able to bring people home safe from the mountains to their families,” he said

Gunn presented a slideshow at the event documenting the ten-year evolution of the AAD, which “gave people like me, who didn’t know how the organisation started, a greater understanding of what an incredible service these dogs and their handlers provide,” owner of the café James Hay said.

b.social is a keen supporter of the Wanaka community and charities he said. It has also assisted the Wanaka LandSAR team and the Coastguard Wanaka Lakes. Saturday’s fundraiser was the first of several community-supporting events and activities it planned to roll out over the coming months.

“We’ve talked with the Coastguard team, and they will be the focus of our next fundraising event post-ski season, around the start of October,” Hay said.

Read edition 981 of the Wānaka Sun here.


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