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  • Rescue Dogs of the Water

    by Antonio Parente

    This is a story that all dog lovers will enjoy and if you don't love dogs you will truly appreciate why they are considered man's best friend.

    As most people might know rescue dogs usually only save people from burning buildings or under a pile of snow or rubble, but these dogs, mostly of the Labrador or Newfoundland breed, can save people from a watery death. The dogs act as lifeguards and what's truly incredible is they can also jump out of a helicopter to save someone as well!

    These amazing dogs are trained by professional trainers who teach the dogs to jump out of helicopters into oceans with their handlers to save people in helpless positions. These trainers must work very hard to get the dogs to block out all of the noise created by the waves and the helicopter. They also need to train the dogs how to ignore the tremendous winds created by the blades of the helicopter. Before they can even think about jumping out of the helicopter the dogs must go through three years of basic training. Some of the training that these canines have to do include pulling a boat containing thirty people between three hundred meters to two kilometers (.56 miles-1.242 miles.) The dogs are trained using a method called "imitative learning".

    A regular training day in Italy starts off with Mas (the first dog ever trained to rescue drowning people) noticing a simulated drowning swimmer and encouraging her canine students to get them to get used to this type of situation. Mas' encouragement also helps the canines overcome any hesitation that they may have about going in the water. One important thing the dogs need to learn is how to calm down the panicking swimmers. Mas demonstrates to the class by swimming in circles around the swimmer until they calm down enough to grab the harness on her back. In the event the swimmer has passed out then Mas will gently pull them by their hand or wrist to the shore.

    The Italian Dog Rescue School (Scuola Italiana Cani Salvataggio) was founded in the 80's by Ferrucio Pilenga in Milan. Right now the school has trained around three hundred rescue dogs in ten different schools around Italy with at least thirty trainers and they are still training more dogs. The school is open for forty-eight weeks a year. The dogs even have training simulation tests, which have manikins drowning in waves and it's the dogs job to rescue them. These dogs, who wear lifejackets, have been stationed at forty-eight different beaches and lakes in Italy with handlers by their sides.

    I don't know about you, but this sure does give me a new appreciation for dogs. Who knows maybe one day I will train my dog to rescue swimmers.

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