If the Marvel franchise has given us anything to go by, being a superhero is incredibly fun. Who wouldn’t want to read minds, stop time and fly, all the while saving lives? And yet, as exciting as all of that is, any true comic book fan knows of course, ‘with great power comes great responsibility’.
And so anyone looking to be a superhero has to spend at least a few years learning how to use their powers. And although Xavier’s school for gifted youths may be a matter of fiction there is a tiny school hidden away in Milan, Italy teaching a group of brave pups exactly that.
The Newfoundland dog breed has been nicknamed the lifeguard dog and with good reason. Aside from their intelligence and gentle disposition, these dogs are known for bravely saving swimmers in distress.
This is precisely why the Italian Coast Guard has created a special K9 lifeguard unit. From speeding boats and hovering helicopters, the Newfoundlands are able to jump into the water and use their tremendous strength to reliably pull a person to shore.
To be able to do so, these amazing dogs must train for a minimum of three years.
The Italian school for lifeguard dogs was founded over 30 years ago by Ferruccio Pilenga with the sole purpose of preparing dogs and their handlers for water rescue.
The school which is the only institution in Europe to provide heli-rescue classes for dogs also collaborate with the Italian national rescue teams such as the Airforce, Police, Civil Defence etc to provide education and training.
Believed to have trained over 350 dogs thus far, the school provides a grueling training course teaching these dogs to perform at a high degree, developing their power and stamina — so much so that one dog alone can pull a boat full of 30 people for between 300 and 2000 metres!
On Italy’s beaches, over 300 of these canines are on duty to protect the millions of people that visit during the summer.
Each year, the Italian Coast Guard is able to save about 3,000 people with the help of their Newfoundland companions.
With what started off in the 80s’ with just Ferruccio and his Newfoundland called Mas has now expanded to a 10 base organisation with over 30 instructors nationally, it’s clear that the face of water rescue is changing completely and we owe it all to our four-legged friend.
If you’d like to see them in action watch the videos below:
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