Canada is the country of origin of the Newfoundland dog but when it comes to promoting the working activity that is the special domain of our breed, we lag far behind other countries such as France, Belgium, Italy and the US. When it comes to water rescue work by Newfs, the UK particularly stands out. They had water trials for Newfs back in the late 1800’s whereas Canada didn’t even get started until the 1980’s.
In the UK there are three breed clubs for Newfoundlands that offer water rescue training and tests. The newest of these is the Southern Newfoundland Club and it not only supports the traditional tests of the older clubs but has added Rescue Simulation Trials which it refers to as “the fun alternative water exercises”. This is not enough for the British Newf lovers and they have complemented the efforts of the breed clubs with 16 Newfoundland working clubs covering Wales, England and Scotland. Some of these clubs were set up specifically for water work and a couple have interesting names such as Muddy Paws Working Newfoundlands and Paddle Paws.
Unique to Britain is an organization called Newfound Friends. It was formed in 1990 with the objective of using the skills of the Newfoundland dog to raise money for childrens charities. They let members of the general public get “rescued” in the water by a Newf in return for a donation.
In 2007, a three year old Newfoundland called Whizz (see photo above) trained and qualified to become a member of the Royal Navy Reservists’ Swansea rescue team. He patrols the Bristol Channel and press reports claim he “has the power to drag up to eight people from the water at once.” Following Whizz was Bilbo, a brown Newf, who qualified as an official lifeguard at Sennen Cove in West Cornwall. Among the qualifying tests was a mile long swim in open water where he beat 70 human contestants. His story has appeared in press reports around the world and he now has a book written about him.
The latest Newfoundland in the UK to qualify for a position on a “human rescue team” is 15 month old Loki. He has joined the Red Cross’ flood response unit, a group specializing in water search and rescue, as both mascot and team member. Next up is a Newf undergoing a 12 month trial with the Marine Rescue Team of the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service. This could lead to another permanent position for a water rescue trained Newfoundland by the end of 2009.
Peter Maniate has been writing columns for the Newf News, the magazine of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada, since 1979. In 1996 he started writing a Newfoundland dog column in the Breedlines section of Dogs in Canada magazine on behalf of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada. When Dogs in Canada ceased publication at the end of 2011 he continued the Breedlines column in the Newf Newfs.
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