Too cool for 'scuola:' Italy's water rescue dogs

It's a perennial problem for seashores along the East coast: the shortage of qualified and dedicated lifeguards.

Italy has no shortage of recruits at its Scuola Italiana Cani Salvataggio or Italian School of Canine Lifeguards. For 20 years the school, located in the port city of Civitavecchia, west of Rome, has been training sea-going canines - mostly Newfoundlands and Labrador Retrievers - to fetch humans in trouble from the waters off Italy. 

It takes three years for a canine lifeguard to complete their training. Trainers say the dogs are more adept at jumping into the sea from helicopters and boats. Once in the water they act as "buoys" to help rescuers locate the victim.

"The dog becomes a sort of intelligent lifebuoy. It is a buoy that goes by itself to a person in need of help, and comes back to the shore also by himself, choosing the best landing point and swimming through the safest currents," said Roberto Gasbarri, the school's coordinator.

School officials report the rescue dogs are responsible for saving several lives every year.

Read the Associated Press story here.

(Photo/Associated Press)