OLYMPIC VALLEY, Calif.—Wylee is going to the Winter Games.
The team based at the Tahoe resort is the only one in the United States to receive such an invitation.
"This is the highlight of all the handlers' and dogs' careers," said Matt Calcutt, who will be coordinating the team in Vancouver. "It's almost like the doggy Olympics."
Four dogs and four handlers from the Squaw team plan to make the trip.
Calcutt said they were selected because they have met the high standards of the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association for years. They also will be representing Squaw Valley USA in honor of the 50th anniversary of the 1960 Winter Olympic Games held at the resort south of Truckee.
Wylee, and his handler Craig Noble, joined other team members earlier this month in a simulated search and recovery of skiers and snowboarders caught in a slide at Squaw Valley. They did sweeps for avalanche beacons and sniffed out buried objects including one patroller volunteered to be buried by his superior.
Among the stringent standards from the Canadian group is a requirement that dogs can find scented items—pieces of clothing worn by patrollers for training purposes—buried overnight more than 2 feet deep, Calcutt said.
"They (the handlers and dogs) need to get validation in dog searching, obedience, avalanche knowledge, they have to be able to forecast avalanche activity, and have to be able to travel in avalanche conditions," Calcutt said.
So how do the handlers get the dogs up to snuff?
It's all about "play, play, play," Calcutt said.
"When they find something it's the biggest reward of the dog's life—we don't give them this much attention at any other time," Calcutt said, as Noble wrestled with Wylee recently after a successful find.