Home > Dispatches > Daily Dispatches 2014 > Daily Dispatch #94

April 4, 2014: Snow Cave Dweller

Stacie B told me that because my dog was relatively new to search and rescue work, that I would not be allowed to work her during the three-day avalanche workshop. Very well, I thought, I’d contribute my efforts on assisting by being a subject and building snow caves.

So yesterday Stacey Re and I drove to Hatcher Pass where we dug and rebuilt several snow caves. We were soon joined by Donna Cramer, Stacie B, and Steve, who all assisted us in doing the work at hand. Because I was the smallest one present, I tested out a good number of the potential temporary home sites.

Today I was a subject for five dogs. This was a physically easy job—all I had to do was hang out and wait to found by the dogs in training. The snow caves I was in were all similar in that I was not totally in the dark. Light (it was a blindingly bright day) shone through the cracks, casting a pale blue light on the walls of the cave. And it wasn’t that cold, at least at first. I’d also dressed for this activity. I was wearing my nylon pants, a nylon windbreaker, and long underwear. My weak link was my boots, which seem to suck up rather than repel water. And so, in short order my wool socks were wet. I did have my pack on hand, and I did have extra dry socks, but mistakenly I thought that soon enough, this exercise would be over. I also mistakenly thought that Stacie B might have a change of heart, and allow me to work Ryder.

Early on, I contented myself by listening in on the ongoing radio conversations, for the snow on top of and around me muffled all sound. These conversations took place between the person in base, the dog handlers, safety people, and cave dwellers. This enabled me to get a sense of the big picture, which was where the dogs were in relation to the three staging areas. Every so often, my safety, Stacey Re, would ask how I was doing. We’d all been told to keep the radio chatter to a minimum, so I merely said “Okay.”

When word got to me that the dog and handler in question were in my area, I shifted my weight around a bit and pulled the hood of my quilted jacket up over my head, so as to avoid being partially buried in snow. Some of the dogs were neat diggers, and some were not. One in particular pounced on the opening, burying my neck and shoulders in snow. I then could not move. Rather than panic, I focused on breathing deeply, and waited for Stacey B to partially shovel me out. Once I was part way out, I grabbed the handler’s toy, and played tug with the dog. And I held tight to the tug rope, as some of the stronger dogs pulled me out of the cave.

The dog rescues were a welcome diversion. However, I had plenty of time to think about one of my favorite subjects, that of time. As the afternoon wore on, I became increasingly more anxious about the fact that it wasn’t really the best time for me to be so far from home. Pete was in California, so I was having to do some of the things he normally does, like keep the home fires burning. Plus, I’d have to be doing my regular chores. And, the horses were missing out on getting their daily exercise.

Finally, the activities came to an end. I was offered a snowmachine ride down the hill, but declined in rightly thinking that walking would warm my now-cold feet. On the way down, I did ask myself the question, why am I so obsessed with time? Why do I put so much value on using it wisely? And how come I can’t just live for the moment? No answers were forthcoming. However, I did have an all-important realization, which was that I was going to continue to be pressed for time. Breakup was fast approaching. And with it would come more outside work, which is unless I decided to let the horses slosh around in a manure ridden pen. Plus, I had a few more projects to do, one of which included a revision of my proposal.

And so, really, something had to give. I then decided that this something was going to have to be K-9 search and rescue work, which is something I feel passionately about. But then, I feel passionately about most things that I do. But, a bit of time off may be a good thing, for my getting caught up on other stuff will enable me to return to search and rescue work feeling more focused. A tough call, but I think for now a very good one.

Next: 95. 4/5/14: The Writing Life: Time Out