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Manuel Durán and Miguel Sánchez with Queen. SUR
Beach safety

Watch as doggy paddle canines join lifeguard rescue service on the Costa del Sol

Three Newfoundlands and two Labradors will support the professionals who watch over the 22 kilometres of the eastern strip of Malaga province's coastline

Eugenio Cabezas

Vélez-Málaga

Tuesday, 9 April 2024, 13:58

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Dogs are man's best friend as the saying goes. For thousands of years, dogs have accompanied humans, helping us and keeping us company and over the decades, working dogs have become a common sight, helping police and fire officers and the armed forces in rescues, emergencies, locating drugs and/or explosives, as well as in assisting people with physical and/or mental disabilities.

Beach canine rescue units are less common. However, this year in Vélez-Málaga on the eastern stretch of the Costa del Sol the lifeguard service will be providing the first service of this type in Malaga and indeed Andalucía this coming summer.

There will be a total of five dogs, three Newfoundlands and two Labradors, which will provide a service along the 22 kilometres of the Vélez-Málaga coastline from Chilches to Lagos. The animals have been provided by Manuel Durán, an employee of Emvipsa, who has created the first Emergency Canine Unit (UCE), which they have called MresQ, together with another trainer, Miguel Sánchez, from the town of Hellín in Albacete (Castilla-La Mancha).

The perfect duo

Durán has a one-year-old female Newfoundland named Mai, while Sánchez has the unit's oldest dog, Queen, a six-year-old female Newfoundland. The animal from Albacete is already an expert in aquatic rescues, having served in the province. On Sunday 7 April she gave her first demonstration during the Torre del Mar beach triathlon.

"They come from the island of Newfoundland in Canada, where for thousands of years they have helped man to fish and rescue people," says Durán, who stresses that these animals "do not rescue people on their own, they are a support for professional lifeguards. "They are normally very good at dragging a rope, a line, as they are very strong in the water and can drag up to two thousand kilos", he says. "They form a perfect duo with the lifeguards," he adds.

In addition to Queen and Mai, three other dogs will be on Torreón beach for the first time in Andalucía; another three-year-old male Newfoundland named Oso who lives in Malaga city, and two male Labradors, one-year-old Buddy and four-year-old Brown.

Puppy

"We will be the first municipality in Malaga that will have a canine rescue unit on the beaches, and one of the first in Andalucía, as last year there was a Labrador in Chiclana, in Cadiz, but it was a puppy and was going to start training," says Durán, who adds that in communities such as Valencia such units are more common.

In his opinion, "people have to get used to the fact that these working dogs are on the beaches". He adds, "It is true that in Torre del Mar we have had a canine beach for eight years, which is one of the best in Andalucía, and that is where they will be for most of the time.” The pioneering service will be coordinated jointly with Servicial, an Almeria-based company that provides the lifeguard and sea rescue service on the beaches of Vélez-Málaga.

“Luckily Torre del Mar's mayor's office and the beaches department have been totally supportive from the beginning and have seen the usefulness of these water rescue dogs," highlights Durán, who points out that both Newfoundlands and Labradors as well as other breeds such as golden retrievers and Spanish water dogs are incredible breeds for working in the water.

Instinct

"They have that instinct, people who have a Newfoundland tell you that, even if they are not trained, they have the behaviour to always pull out someone who is in the water,” Durán explains.

Newfoundlands and Labradors have flat, broad paws and a thick coat with a double waterproof layer, which makes them ideally adapted for working on land and in the water. They are also very protective and love diving into the sea and swimming.

The combination of these factors makes them a great ally for lifeguards in sea rescues, especially in cold water. These breeds have helped shipwreck victims to shore, children who have swum into deep water and sailors spread heavy fishing nets at sea. Durán adds that Newfoundlands in particular “suffer a little more from the heat because of the coat, but they adapt.”

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