Recently, a group of 14 people struggling in high wind and waves near an Italian beach was saved with the help of highly-trained lifeguard dogs.
These dogs helped rescue the swimmers who encountered troubles around 330 feet off the shore of Sperlonga that’s halfway between Naples and Rome.
The group of three families couldn’t get back to the shore after their inflatables, surf gear, and dinghies began to capsize in the wind and waves, explained Roberto Gasbarri who’s the head of the center-south department of Italian rescue dog school (SICS).
The group included eight kids between the ages of six and 12.
Italian Lifeguard Dogs Help Swimmers in Trouble
One of the families’ members on the beach began calling for help and caught the attention of three dog units that were close by. The SICS patrols around 30 beaches in Italy and have 300 dog units consisting of one dog and one trainer.
Lifeguards from the nearby beaches and three dogs named Mya, Eros, and Mira succeeded in bringing back the stranded group to shore in around 15 minutes.
Gasbarri emphasizes the importance of dogs in lifeguard rescues, particularly when they need to save several people. Big groups can be too much for only several lifeguards to handle properly.
The SICS program is the brainchild of Ferruccio Pilenga. In 1989, he came up with the idea that dogs can be great lifeguards and was inspired by his Newfoundland named Mas who was a powerful swimmer.
He said how Mas would pull a water-filled dinghy with three people on it in thirty minutes, something a person can’t do.
A Demanding Training Program where the Best Make It to No.1 Teams
The SICS program is a quality one: after 18 months of basic training, only the dogs who successfully finish the required steps can move on to the more intensive parts like lifesaving techniques that include providing help from speed boats and jumping from helicopters.
SICS teams are praised for their effectiveness in the face of large-scale scenarios of life or death. Their special training makes them capable of carrying out multiple rescues in cases when one or two lifeguards don’t suffice.
Pilenga said how using a dog in a water rescue mission is very useful for lifeguards. In this way, they’re never alone because they’ve teamed up with furry fully-trained colleagues. Human lifeguards can also save their energy and thus, improve their rescuing capacity.
To simplify things, consider the fact that in order to pull a sled, you need at least six dogs whereas to pull six people, you just need one dog.
Dogs Are also Important for the Swimmers’ Emotional Well-Being
Although the program’s success is partially a result of the dogs’ attuned survival instincts that help them find the safest route to shore and their stamina and command-following capacity, their emotional support isn’t to be underestimated.
Their presence can lighten up things and the biggest reward is a positive emotion which both the dog and his trainer feel at the moment of the rescue and this further strengthens their bond.
Although Italy is the only country that recognizes certified canine lifeguards at the moment; with training projects expected to start in the near future in Germany, Switzerland, and the US, the SICS program is hopeful they’ll spread their water safety net.