These incredible dogs function as a kind of Canine Coast Guard off the shores of Italy, where beaches gets crowded in the summer, and thousands of swimmers need rescuing. Here, dogs from the Scuola Italiana Cani Salvataggio (Italian School of Canine Lifeguards) practice a rescue operation. The dog pulling his friends does this in real life with rescued humans aboard.
If you were flailing in the water, imagine the sight of a dog splashing down from the heavens to rescue you. I’d personally think I’d passed through to the other side and was now being escorted to dog heaven (surely a far more interesting place than human heaven). The dogs have an easier time than their human counterparts jumping from helicopters and speeding boats, an AP article explains.
Here’s a helicopter’s eye view of a dog being lowered down with the human rescuer. It takes three years for a dog to be a fully trained lifedog. There are 300 full-fledged lifedogs in the program.
In the article Roberto Gasbarri, a coordinator of one of the school’s centers near Rome, explains the reason dogs are so effective. “Dogs are useful in containing the physical fatigue of the lifeguard, to increase the speed at which casualties are retrieved, to increase the security of both the casualty and of the lifeguard,” Gasbarri said.
“The dog becomes a sort of intelligent lifebuoy. It is a buoy that goes by itself to a person in need of help, and comes back to the shore also by himself, choosing the best landing point and swimming through the safest currents,” he said.
Intelligent lifebuoys. I love that.
While the school trains any breed over 66 pounds, Labradors, Newfoundlands, and golden retrievers are the most common because they love swimming and retrieving. Each dog works with a human lifeguard, who is also the dog’s trainer.
“Being retrievers, they set out to pick up anything we tell them, be it a human being, an object, or a fish, and they bring it back to the shore,” lifeguard Monia Luciani said in the article. “They do not associate it with a physical activity, but it is rather a game for them.”
(Photos: AP, courtesy of the Italian School of Canine Lifeguards)