Working dogs are versatile. There are search and rescue dogs, cadaver dogs, guide dogs, therapy dogs, service dogs, herding dogs, cancer sniffing dogs, seizure alert dogs… well, the list just keeps growing. Have you ever heard of a water rescue dog?
They leap fearlessly from hovering helicopters and speeding boats into the waters to save humans. These lifeguards may have four legs but they are far from being freaks. Doggy paddle aside — they are a bunch of highly trained canine lifeguards who don’t think twice about diving head first into the chilly waters for someone in need.
Fellow women: If your fantasy about a day at the beach is being rescued by a muscle-clad hunk with dark wavy hair, a natural tan, white teeth that glisten through his smile when he sets eyes on you and who just happens to be the dedicated lifeguard on duty… you should make a trip to Italy.
Over twenty years ago Ferruccio Pilenga trained his own Newfoundland dog, Mas, to do water rescue and the SICS (Scoula Italiano Cani Salvataggio) or Italian School of Water Rescue Dogs was born. There are now ten SICS centers throughout Italy and 300 fully certified water rescue dogs that assist human lifeguards along Italian coastlines.
Any breed dog has the potential for water rescue but Newfoundlands, Labradors and Golden Retreivers are naturals due to their love of and ability in the water. The potential life guard dog must weigh at least 66 pounds (30 kilograms) as strength and stamina are two of the most important qualities required for the job. Newfoundlands have the advantage over other breeds because they have webbed paws, a water resistant coat of fur and the propensity for swimming.
Pilenga consulted Coast Guard, Air Force and Search and Rescue teams to design a program enabling a dog to achieve certification. He also recognized how important the relationship is between dog and handler so the dogs that go through SICS coursework do not live in kennels. They live with their human handler as part of a family.
Water rescue dogs can go where humans can’t, for example closer to rocks that may prove too hazardous for a human. And the benefit is? Labor is cheap –- they will work for food!
Photo: Flicker: Tellmewhat2