Friday, August 14, 2009

Newfoundlands Saving Italy's Swimmers

Canine Heroes Saving Italy's Swimmers

(Tom Kington, Monday 10 August 2009 18.32)

"Italy's bronzed and muscular life guards are under threat this summer as a new breed of lifesaver grows in popularity, despite being shorter and a lot hairier.

"Three hundred dogs are now licensed to save drowning bathers at Italy's beaches and lakes, and have already helped save seven lives.

"Accompanied by instructors, the labradors, newfoundlands and golden retrievers plunge through waves or even leap out of boats and helicopters to help pull bathers to safety.

"'The dogs are notching up more rescues and becoming increasingly popular', said Donatella Pasquale, vice-president of the school run by Italy's civil protection agency where dogs have trained since the 1980s.

"Pasquale said dogs learned to tow their instructors out to sea, leaving them the strength to give medical attention to drowning swimmers. 'The dogs are incredibly strong', she said. 'Our record is one Newfoundland dog towing 40 people at the same time.' They were rarely sent into the water on their own, she added. 'If you're drowning you might get a shock if a wet dog, rather than a Baywatch character, appears to save you.'

"Five of the school's graduates have debuted this year near Venice, where Marcello Monaco, a coastguard official, said they were a hit. 'They are constantly listening for yells from the water and scanning for waving arms', he said."

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