A vet and her heroic hound have become one of the first canine water rescue teams to be certified by both the International and Belgian Lifesaving Federation.

Bettina and Merita
Bettina Salmelin and Merita.

Bettina Salmelin, veterinary surgical intern at Vets Now Referrals in Swindon, undertook rigorous training with her Newfoundland, Merita, to obtain the accreditation.

Rescue tasks

The pair’s tasks included:

  • rescues of conscious, unconscious, easy and difficult patients
  • towing multiple patients in the water at the same time
  • towing boats for long distances

Dr Salmelin also had to demonstrate canine and human first aid and CPR, carry an adult patient from the water on to dry land, and lift a dog back into a boat after the rescue.

The exercises were conducted between 100 and 200 metres from the shore, while the animals swam more than 2.5km during the session.

Real teamwork

Dr Salmelin said: “It was tough because it tested us physically and technically, but it was definitely a great day. The dogs really enjoyed it – they were wagging their tails and watching the other dogs, but were always ready for their turn.

“It was great because we were working with the dogs throughout the day instead of just sending them alone. It was real teamwork. I am very proud of them.“

It took Dr Salmelin about five years to train Merita to the required standard. She has previously certified two other Newfoundlands as Belgian Lifesaving Federation water rescue dogs.

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