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On Italy’s Beaches, Specially Trained Dogs Are Working As Daring Lifeguards


SICS /Facebook

The iconic image of sled dog teams dragging their heavy loads as they blast their way through the frozen tundra is the stuff of legends, but did you know that dogs are proving just as powerful in temperate waters as they are on ice?

In Italy, an elite squad of 350 specially trained canines from the Italian School of Water Rescue Dogs (Scuola Italiana Cani Salvataggio, or SICS for short) is now patrolling the beaches as a lifeguard.

300 SICS units, consisting of a dog and a handler, are tasked with policing approximately 30 of the busiest beaches in the country.

Thanks to their willingness to act, their strength and intrepid feats, including jumping from helicopters into the surf to rescue swimmers at risk, SICS estimates that its dog guards are saving an average of 20 to 30 lives a year. And that number keeps increasing. every year.

Earlier this month, when several families, including eight children, were threatened by strong wind and waves while standing 330 feet from shore, three canine lifeguards and their trainers rushed to save the day.

With the help of their human companions, the dogs Eros, Mya, and Mira got everyone to safety in about 15 minutes.

The SICS program is the brainchild of 59-year-old Ferruccio Pilenga, who had the idea that dogs would make excellent lifeguards in 1989 upon seeing his own Newfoundland, an immensely powerful swimmer named Mas.

“He took out a boat full of water with three people on board for half an hour,” Pilenga said. The Times of London. “A human cannot do that.”

The SICS program is arduous. After 18 months of basic training, only those dogs that successfully complete the required steps are considered ready to move on to the more intensive aspects of life-saving techniques, such as jumping from helicopters and jumping from high-speed boats.

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SICS teams are renowned for being especially effective in the face of large-scale life and death scenarios. Thanks to their special training, they are better able to carry out the simultaneous rescue of multiple swimmers in situations where the capabilities of one or two lifeguards can easily be overwhelmed.

“Being able to use a dog on a water rescue mission gives the rescuer an advantage. The rescuer operating on his own is alone. We are never alone. We are always teaming up with our dog, making it a six-legged unit. I can conserve my energy and become a more effective rescuer, ”said Plienga. Great great story.

“To make [people] I understand, I always say: ‘To pull a sled, you need at least six dogs, to pull six people, you only need one dog.’

While the success of the program can be attributed in part to the dogs’ sharply tuned survival instincts that help them find the safest route to shore, as well as their endurance and ability to follow commands, Pilenga believes the component they bring to their work cannot. be underestimated.

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“The presence of the dogs helps alleviate the situation,” he told GBS. “The greatest reward is the emotion that the dog and the owner feel at the moment of rescue, which further unites that special bond between dog and human.”

Italy is currently the only country that recognizes certified canine lifeguards, however, with training centers projected to be established in the near future in the US, Germany, Switzerland, and the Azores, the SICS program seeks to extend its network. safety to cover wider waters.

So move on to Baywatch, there’s a new dog in town and hopefully soon Barkwatch will hit the waves on a beach near you.

(CLOCK the Great Big Story video on these dogs below).

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