Ever since the days when the Augustine monks sent their famous St. Bernard dogs out?
Ever since the days when the Augustine monks sent their famous St. Bernard dogs out to rescue snow-trapped travellers, dogs have played an important part in the safety of strangers to the snowy slopes of Switzerland.
But, although the monks still retain a team of St. Bernards at their famous hospice 8,000 feet up in the Swiss Alps, the Alsatian dog has taken over the role of four-legged rescuer with all the trappings of modern sciences to assist him.
One of the most outstanding organisations in Switzerland which uses dogs for its rescue work is the Schweizerische Rettungsflugwachean elite group of 80 people from all walks of life who use 24 dogs in their rescue work.
When a man is trapped under the snow, speed is an essential. The scent of the trapped man does not penetrate through the snow for at least 20 minutes and rescue experts reckon that a trapped person must be taken out of the snow within 30 minutes of being trapped.
Unless help comes within half an hour, the trapped person will "drown" in the snow. One of the few cases when this rule did not apply occurred in Austria in 1954 when one of the Swiss dogs discovered a man who had been trapped under the snow for 82-hours, a plank of wood saving the man from drowning in the snow.
In our film, "Arlet" runs backwards and forwards through the thick avalanche snow as she searches for the scent of the man buried beneath the surface. One found, he is quickly pulled clear, given oxygen and sent back to the valley on a snow stretcher.
Other dogs are specially trained to jump from aeroplanes with their handlers. A great deal of love and patience is needed to persuade the dogs to jump and they normally do so in the arms of their handlers who hold them in their arms until they land.
Just another example of "man's best friend" obeying and serving without question.