Mountaineer Volunteer: Jess Leahey

The Mountaineer Volunteer is a weekly, pay-it-forward feature in the Revelstoke Mountaineer that highlights the great work volunteers do to make Revelstoke a true community. This week, Jess Leahey of Revelstoke Canine Search & Rescue.

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Revelstoke Canine Search & Rescue Jess Leahey with search dog Penny. Photo contributed

The Mountaineer Volunteer is a weekly, pay-it-forward feature in the Revelstoke Mountaineer that highlights the great work volunteers do to make Revelstoke a true community. Each week, we feature a new volunteer who then nominates the volunteer to be featured the next week.

Jess Leahey, Revelstoke Canine Search & Rescue, or RCSAR

What are your volunteer duties?

There are two ways to volunteer for our organization. One is be a dog handler, and the other is to fundraise. I am one of the few non-dog handlers in our group. Our dog Penny is a Lab/Retriever mix and my husband, Troy Leahey, is the handler. They are active members in Search & Rescue focusing mainly on avalanche burial and recovery. I mostly sell our very cool merchandise, sling beers at fundraisers, concession stands and any other ways we can drum up some money for training, equipment and overall support for our dog handlers. It is an expensive and time-consuming undertaking to certify a dog and we are so grateful for a community who believes in what we do and shows us so much support.

Why do you volunteer for RCSAR?

Lots of reasons! Highest on my list is that I like having Penny go to work with my husband every day. He is the head Avalanche Forecaster at Revelstoke Mountain Resort and has had some close calls at work — it gives me peace to know she is there with him. Whether it’s a gentle reminder of family in a high risk scenario, the right tool at the right time, or the calm at the end of a storm, she makes his dangerous job a little bit safer. I trust her nose and know it has potential get him out of trouble.

For you, what’s rewarding about volunteering?

Again, I find a lot about this rewarding. I really believe in the program, in the handlers and in the dog’s abilities. I think with recreational backcountry use growing, it’s no longer a question of if, but when these skills will be needed. I know we can be prepared. I empathize with anyone who has experienced trauma from avalanches, whether emotional or physical, and this is a way I can help. I love watching my dog at work and the relationship the program enables for my husband and her to have. Most of all, after all the hard work, I get to have a really good dog.

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