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Italy's rescue dogs - How man's best friend saves lives | DW Documentary

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Jumping out of helicopters. Saving drowning people. Italy's rescue dogs are unique. Every year, teams of dogs and their humans complete the tough training program at the "SICS" dog school.

Valentina Renzopaoli and her Labrador Ettore plan to stand guard on Italy's beaches for the first time, this summer. Valentina is actually a journalist. But because Ettore grew from a tiny puppy into an unexpectedly huge Labrador, she needed to find something for him to do.
That's how the two ended up in training at "SICS” (Scuola Italiana Cani Salvataggio), Italy’s premiere dog school. The training is intense. First, Valentina and Ettore practice rescuing bags of stones from a chilly lake near Rome every Sunday.

Under the strict but patient eyes of instructor Roberto Gasbarri, dogs like Ettore learn to place their complete trust in their master or mistress. They learn playfully, without coercion, Roberto explains. Newfoundlands and Labradors, in particular, are ideal rescue dogs, he says. "They stay calm even in stressful situations, and are able to use the water currents perfectly, to find the safest way back to shore."

Animals like these can pull three to five people to safety. Teams from SICS have saved dozens of lives this way. But first up for Valentina Renzopaoli is a swimming test of her own, in April. And in June, the founder of the school, Ferruccio Pilenga, will come in person to give Ettore a second exam. Will dog and mistress reach their goal? The film accompanies Valentina and Ettore through ups and downs, capturing both stressful and beautiful moments.

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