Plouguerneau. Abers rescue dogs deprived of training this summer

The Terre-Neuve gladly throws itself into the water to help people in difficulty. This is one of its many qualities. In Plouguerneau, the Terre-Neuve des Abers association trains about twenty dogs all year round. Or almost. Because, this summer, the four-legged rescuers were deprived of the beach. Explanations.

Of all the dogs, it is the Newfoundland that wins its heart hands down. Dominique Papin has been keen on it for almost thirty years. “Quiet, Loyal, Affectionate”, this former member of the French Navy, returned to civilian life, is not short of qualifiers to describe the animal, certainly imposing but gentle as a lamb. “I had four and I trained them all in sea rescue” he relates. The latest, or rather the last, responds to the surname of Ohana, “it means ‘family’ in Tahitian” specifies its owner.

The man chairs the association Terre-Neuve des Abers, in Plouguerneau, in Finistère. It brings together around twenty enthusiasts like him who meet on the beach every Sunday to train their dogs to rescue in the water at high tide. “It’s a sporting hobby because we are not lifeguards” they specify.

Since 2018, a prefectural decree prohibits the presence of animals on the beaches of Finistère from June 1 to September 30. Until this summer, the Terre-Neuve des Abers association had found an arrangement with the municipality of Landunvez which authorized these training sessions. “And then there are boaters, bathers and other dog owners who complained, saying that everyone should be housed in the same boat. The mayor was forced to withdraw this exemption from us” explains Dominique Papin.

Deprived of a beach, the Newfoundlands are also deprived of exercise. “They lose a lot of progress” regrets the president of the association who hopes to be able to put the whole pack back on their feet from September 1st. “We should find our training site in Landunvez on this date, he indicates. But it’s a shame all this, especially since we only need a small stretch of beach and only once a week for three hours”.

The Terre-Neuve des Abers association was created in 1993. At the time, it only had 7 dogs. Over the years, it grows. It even welcomes other breeds such as the Bernese Mountain Dog, the Leonberger or the Landseer.

“The Newfoundland remains the one with the most aquatic skills than the others to provide rescue at sea. It is capable of bringing a buoy, towing a small boat, recovering a person in difficulty” observes Dominique Papin who knows a lot about these dogs that the fishermen of the Canadian island of the same name took on board their boats. “They were part of the crew, he says. To pull up the fishing nets and to save the men who fell into the water”.

The Newfoundland has a double particularity: it swims with its four legs, which are webbed. “His hair protects him from the cold, adds the president of the association. These dogs are innate. Our role is to make them work”. And everything goes through the word or even a simple look.

In Plouguerneau, during training, the masters do not get wet. Or very little. Except when you have to pretend to drown for the dog to come to the rescue. “The Newfoundlands are not recognized as being of public utility in France. However, during major floods in the east of the country, they were used to bring relief”.

However, the association organizes demonstrations “to make known the abilities of these dogs”. Some owners participate in high-level competitions. “I went to the French championship several times with my dogs, remembers Dominique. Swimming offshore, rescue exercises more than 50 meters from the shore, it was rather tough”.

If the dog can save the man, the reverse is also possible. The president of Terre-Neuve des Abers is a canine rescuer and trains those who wish.

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