This week has brought dramatic and heart tugging stories about flooding and rising water in the south of Texas. Tropical Storm Harvey has lashed the Texas coast over the last week. Recently, I came across stories of water rescue dogs around the world. In Italy, Britain, and the USA today, dogs are used in water rescues. Certain breeds have proven ideal for work rescuing people from the water.
For years, water rescue dogs have been trained and serve to help people. The Italian School of Rescue Dogs has trained hundreds of dogs. Currently, 300 dogs work on the Italian coast in rescue work. In 2013, 30 people were rescued. Whizz, a Newfoundland, worked with the Royal Navy Rescue at Bristol, UK. He received an Order of Merit for 10 years of service. He was considered the world’s number one water rescue dig, saving more than 100 people from drowning. In Montana, USA some Newfoundlands are trained for the Water Dog certification.
A story from 100 years ago relates an early water rescue. In 1919, a ship named Ethie ran aground off the Canadian coast. Historians credit a Newfoundland named Tang for saving the entire crew. The massive dog jumped into the water and worked with people on the beach to bring all 92 crew-members safely to safety. The story of Tang continues with a report that the dog received a medal for bravery from the insurance company, Lloyds of London, which it wore for the rest of its life.
Dogs make excellent partners for rescues because they are very competent communicators with humans. They can read cues from gazing at people, and are able to understand commands and these breeds are very comfortable in the water. I hope people continue using water rescue dogs, and that they can be helpful in future natural disasters like the one on the coast of Texas this month.
My story Asante’s Gullah Journey has a dog character. Asa is the dog that travels with Asante and Lakisha on their mission for the Library. Asa, an African Basenji dog would not likely be suitable as a water rescue dog, but he is helpful in their adventures. Asa will be back in the sequel, out in 2018.