Opinion Brief

Italy's heroic canine lifeguards

Dogs are already known for compassion, but in Italy, specially trained pooches are leaping from speedboats and saving lives

The video: In Italy, "lifedogs" — or, as as The Daily Mail calls them, "David Hassel-woofs" — patrol the beaches, ready to rescue swimmers in distress (watch below). Typically labradors or retrievers, they may not be as easy on the eyes as "Baywatch" characters, but they've certainly earned respect. In a three-year training program, The Italian School of Canine Lifeguards trains the pups (300 so far) to leap out of helicopters and speedboats and paddle to the aid of flailing beachgoers, then pull them to safety. Canines are particularly useful for this job because they're fast in the water and don't tire as easily as humans do, Robert Gasbarri, a coordinator at the school told the Associated Press.
The reaction: "Best of all," says The Daily Mail, "in these cash-strapped times, the only reward that these ocean-going heroes require is a pat on the head." And don't worry about the dogs being overworked, adds lifeguard Monia Luciani: "They do not associate it with a physical activity, but it is rather a game for them." Watch the dogs in action:

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