When I moved to Whistler just over half a year ago, one of the first things I noticed was the abundance of dogs. OK, more like the abundance of big and beautiful dogs. It only makes sense with Whistler’s terrain perfectly suited for those long walks and free-running and hunting days.
This, of course, is nothing new. Dogs of all textures and sizes have been a huge part of Whistler since our earliest pioneers decided to settle here. Our archive holds a wealth of early photographs of dogs – some identified and others not.
From these early albumen and gelatin silver prints, it is clear that although considered as family pets, these pooches were more than just companions – they were hunters and guard dogs as well. During the early days of Alta Lake, the local dogs would have been efficient hunters and handy companions for shooing away bears for their owners.
Today in Whistler, dogs have it made. They are free to roam on some of the most gorgeous hiking trails in the country, spend a day at the doggie spa in Function Junction and – for the tourist dog – relax at one of the many pet-friendly hotels in the valley. Our spoiled furry friends even have their own section devoted to them at Rainbow Park.
Apart from the leisurely dog residents here in Whistler, our vast landscape is also home to highly trained rescue dogs. In 1978, professional patroller Bruce Watt trained Whistler’s first rescue dog. Bruce was enticed to do so after being caught and buried in a heavy avalanche that year. Bruce was then encouraged by Chris Stethem, the Safety Supervisor on Whistler Mountain at the time, to pursue an avalanche rescue dog training program. Bruce did just that, researching and perfecting his methods of training along the way. By 1982 the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association (CARDA) had formed. You can learn more about CARDA and the history of rescue dogs here.
While it’s easy to admire the beauty of dogs surrounding us Whistlerites, it is important to understand these creatures as affectionate beings, in need of care and protection. With the recent influx of injured and homeless dogs brought into WAG, the local shelter is in need of donations and adoptions more than ever. This recent article in the Whistler Question Newspaper outlines some of the issues surrounding animal abuse and neglect happening around Whistler, bringing awareness to the fact that we need to teach respect for animals to kids from a very young age.
If you would like to help our local hounds by donating to WAG, click here.