Avalanche Buries Dog For 20+ Minutes But Skiers Refuse To Stop Searching

Even a strong young dog is no match for an avalanche. Skier Scott Shepherd learned that in the hardest way on December 26th, 2021, when his 2-year-old Chesapeake Bay Retriever Apollo got separated from him in the Berthoud Pass area in Colorado.

Shepherd’s group had veered off course, and Apollo ran towards a steep, rocky slope. The bewildered dog triggered an avalanche, and before Shepherd could do anything, Apollo was swept over the cliff by the powerful rush of snow.

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Shepherd described the shocking moment to ABC News:

“He started moving, and he just looked confused like, ‘Why am I sliding down the hill?’ And then he was just gone.”

A Search Team Forms

Fortunately for both Shepherd and Apollo, college students Bobby White and Josh Trujillo were backcountry skiing not too far away. They had witnessed the avalanche, and White even caught the aftermath on tape via a GoPro camera.

After making sure no other humans were caught in the avalanche, the group started searching for Apollo. They scanned the area for 20 minutes following the avalanche, using 8-foot probing poles to poke through the piles of snow.

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The snow covered a field 300 yards long and 50 yards wide. According to stats from the Utah Avalanche Center, 93% of human victims can be recovered alive if dug out within 15 minutes.

So, naturally, after a while, the skiers were pessimistic, with White even saying on film:

“I think we need to get out of here. That dog’s dead, this is why I don’t like dogs in avalanche terrain to begin with.”

Searching for Apollo in a high-risk avalanche area meant danger for White, Trujillo, and Shepherd as well. In the midst of their acknowledgment that Apollo couldn’t have made it, Trujillo’s keen eye suddenly spotted something.

Surviving A 20 Minute Burial

White’s GoPro video captured Trujillo standing a few yards back as he saw a dog’s nose sticking out of the snow.

“He’s still alive!” Trujillo declares in the footage.

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Watching the recording, it’s still amazing to me that Trujillo was able to spot Apollo’s snout amidst all this heavy snow. Soon after declaring his discovery, White and another skier ran over to help Trujillo rescue Apollo.

It took several minutes and a few tools for the group to dig the dog out. White talked to him as they worked, trying to calm him.

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After the group shoveled enough snow away from the dog, Apollo was able to climb out and eagerly ran to Shepherd’s side as his dad caught up with the students. The fact that he was discovered, let alone pulled from the snow unharmed, is nothing short of a miracle.

“He just survived a 20 minute burial,” an astonished White says on camera.

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After a few days of rest, Apollo is reportedly back to normal with no signs of injury.

“A lot of tears and hugs, and he got a lot of love for the next couple of days,” Shepherd said.

You can watch the entire rescue video below, but note that it contains some spoken profanities.

A Warning About Dogs In Backcountry Areas

Following this harrowing close call, Shepherd told ABC News he learned a very important lesson. He said he regrets getting off-course and allowing his dog near avalanche-prone slopes.

“I feel like I kind of got away with something that has such a huge lesson without huge consequences. Like, he could have been lost forever. I thought the best case was that he was seriously injured, but nothing happened at all. It just still blows my mind.”

Shepherd and his family are also extremely grateful to Trujillo, White, and the other skiers who stopped to help find their buried dog.

“There’s no way I would have found him in time to get him out of there because I was still way up the slope, making my way around. I think they saved his life, and I can never be grateful enough for that.”

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The Colorado Avalanche Information Center reports the danger rating of various skiing areas, and any locals are encouraged to check this before embarking on a trip. Dogs in particular are at risk without beacons to call for rescue and skis to avoid being buried.

H/T: ABC News
Featured Image: YouTube

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