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Life-saving training for Newfoundlands

By MIG: Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: August 25, 2013

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A MEETING of canine buddies took place at a scenic lake at the weekend.

The Newfoundland Rother Valley Training Group met at Rudyard Lake for the dogs to train in water rescue work.

Alfie and Dumble, Newfoundlands who live in Leek and are owned by Pam Hodson and Mandy Slater, are part of the 20 strong team.

Vin Whittington, who is in charge of the weekly meetings, was happy to talk about the breed of Newfoundlands, aka Newfies.

He said: "We are a group of individuals who meet nearly every Sunday in Spring and Summer. We train our dogs in water rescue work, but over the colder months we train in draught work (carting).

"Although we train hard with our dogs, they are all first and foremost family pets. We train our dogs for fun, for both our own and the dogs' enjoyment.

"We have been coming to Rudyard for a couple of years, and we are pleased to support the Lake.

"We give water displays, collecting money for both the Lake and the RNLI.

"At our displays you can see our Newfies leaping out of boats, towing boats, and even towing 15 plus people at once."

Vin explained why Newfies are so good at what they do: "The Newfoundland's large bones give it mass, while its large musculature gives it the power it needs to take on rough ocean waves and tides.

"These dogs have great lung capacity for swimming long distances, and a thick, oily and waterproof double coat which protects them from the chill of icy waters.

"Droopy lips and jowls make the dog drool on land but this helps them breathe in the water.

Newfoundlands also have massive webbed paws which provide maximum propulsion.

Unlike other dogs, Newfoundlands do a modified breast stroke instead of a doggy paddle."

There are lots of stories of Newfies performing real life rescues. In 1828, Ann Harvey of Isle aux Morts, with her family and her Newfie called Hairyman, saved over 160 Irish Immigrants from the wreck of the brig Dispatch.

In 1995, a ten month old Newfie called Boo saved a man from drowning in the Yuba River, even though Boo had no formal water rescue training.

Newfoundlands have won war medals, inspired poetry (Lord Byron's Newfy 'Boatswain' was the subject of 'Epitaph to a Dog') and have acted as life savers on beaches including at Bilbo in Cornwall.

Vin added: "We are proud to work with our Newfoundlands, who continue to amaze us with their power, instinct and gentle personalities."

For more information about the Newfoundland Rother Valley Training Group go online to www.rvtg.org.uk.

The team is sponsored by Maris Pumps and are always looking to expand the club.

Anyone interested can call Vin Whittington on 01909 723431 or Susan Marsh on 01132 504743.

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