The Mexican Armed Forces are pioneering the training of dogs in marine rescue, second only to Colombia in terms of the advances they have made.
The Mexican Navy and Army have created a pilot program in which two Belgian Malinois shepherds, donated by the Boy Scouts, went through a two-year training program that allows them to help with the Army’s water rescue maneuvers.
”We came up with this idea after one of our lifeguards had to rescue five people. The rescue was successful, but he ended up on the brink of hypothermia. This made us curious: ‘Could we train dogs to help lifeguards in these situations?’” said Frigate Captain José Waldo Baños Vázquez.
His inquiries showed that historically dogs have been included in rescue missions, but only in mountainous areas and snow conditions.
After a long investigation, the Navy decided in 2013 that the Belgian shepherds were the ideal breed of dog the task required, and luckily they had just received a pair of pups as a donation.
Part of the project included the creation of lifejackets with a special mechanism that, once activated by a lifeguard or the dog itself, would make the animal more buoyant and capable of doing more.
Docky and SAR (the second was named using the english acronym “search and rescue”) are the two first graduates of the program and are now part of the water rescue unit of the Mexican Navy.
Both dogs were part of an exhibition last week called Expo Mar 2015, entertaining visitors such as 10-year-old Silvia. “It’s like a St. Bernard, but in the sea,” she marveled as she listened to an explanation given by the dog’s handler, a Navy scuba diver.
Corvette Captain Luis Bernardo Villarreal explained that the Navy’s high command is tasked with keeping people safe at sea through its 19 search, rescue and surveillance stations, manned by highly qualified human — and now canine — personnel.
The Navy also monitors the coast, protects endangered species and conducts patrols at strategic facilities. It is also one of the first responders in natural disasters.
The Expo Mar 2015 event was intended to strengthen the ties between the Navy and the public through 10 interactive modules that highlight its attributions and missions, all focused on guaranteeing the rule of law and national sovereignty.
Most of those who attended were children and teenagers who were given the chance to try tying intricate knots, while studying the skeleton of a pilot whale that had become stranded on a beach. They also had the opportunity to operate a ship on a simulator and learn about marine species.
Source: Milenio (sp)