The 11-year-old Airedale terrier had an important job, but he was also a beloved figure on the mountain who loved to chase birds.


The death of a beloved, bird-chasing avalanche rescue dog on Aspen Mountain has inspired an outpouring of both support and donations to keep the rescue dog program going. 

Zoot, an adorable 11-year-old Airedale terrier, died last week after a monthlong battle with cancer, the Aspen Times reports. According to the newspaper, "countless" people around the mountain have offered condolences, including people ski patroller Brad Benson, Zoot's owner, doesn't even know. 

"I was kind of scared to come back to work just because I stood down at the bottom [and] it was hard to walk back into the locker room," he told the newspaper last week. "It kind of helps having all these people." 

Benson also started a GoFundMe drive to help pay for Zoot's remaining medical costs. So far, its more than doubled the $5,000 goal. What's not used to pay for Zoot's treatment will be available for the remaining rescue dogs on the mountain, which includes Zoot's son, Zaugg. 

Just like his dad, Zaugg loves chasing birds. He was also "stubborn and goofy," photographer Scott Brockmeier told the Times, but mostly he was loved. More than 100 people offered condolences on Zoot's Facebook page, and several more did the same on the GoFundMe site. 

Zoot had an important job—saving people from avalanches, after all—but he was also a welcome sight, a spark of joy skiers would see on the mountain. As you can see in the video above, just about everyone was happy to see him on the slopes. 

Benson is back at work, but without his best friend, with whom he had a "once-in-a-lifetime" bond, he told the Times. Never forget, dogs are a part of our families as much as any human. 

"... For some reason we just totally clicked and communicated and we were together 24/7, year-round, for 11 years," Benson told the paper. "That's tighter than anyone I've ever had before, I don't really know why. He was just the one." 

You can read Zoot's full remembrance, via the Aspen Times, here.