Monday, April 8, 2013

What Were They Thinking?

He passed the rigorous swimming and fitness tests and, in 2006, Bilbo, a chocolate Newfoundland, became an official member of the Penwith District Council Lifeguards, the first and only dog lifeguard in Britain.
He was named after a surfboard brand
He performed all his duties faithfully for over 2 years. He saved 3 people's lives, and kept many others from getting into trouble in the first place, once swimming in front of a woman who had entered a dangerous current despite his attempts to keep her from the water. He got a mention in the paper for that.
 Boomerang Pet Hero Award Recipient
On Bilbo's watch, the average number of rescues fell from 20 or 30 every summer to 12 in his first year, and only one in his second year (the last year he worked).
Sennen Cove Beach, a popular surfing destination where Bilbo worked.
He made school visits to teach children about water safety. The children adored him, and he had fans as far away as Japan.
With owner, Steve Jamieson
But he ran afoul of the bureaucracy--and in 2008, he was fired. When the Royal National Lifeboat Institute took over the running of the beach, they said that Bilbo's services "were no longer required," that he was not a professional lifeguard, that he presented a health and safety risk to the beach-goers, and that he would be liable for a £75 fine if he set a paw on the beach again.

The decision didn't go down well.

Bilbo supporters immediately began a petition to the Queen and Prime Minister for his re-instatement. It garnered over 10,000 signatures. A petition on the No. 10 (Downing St.) website got another 2275 names., and 7000 people joined Bilbo's Facebook group.

Finally, in 2009, Bilbo was allowed to return to his life-guarding duties.

I'm actually a bit surprised that the Lifeboat Institute didn't want Bilbo. Newfoundlands are powerful swimmers, often swimming long distances in icy waters and heavy seas. Courageous and intelligent, they also seem to have an instinct to rescue people. The breed has been credited for the rescue of hundreds of people in boating accidents and shipwrecks. They are the breed favored by most water rescue organizations.
They even do helicopter rescue.
What sort of tunnel vision would have led the Institute to spurn the services of a dog who not only was already living the Institute's motto, but whose celebrity would surely have benefited them, had they chosen to make him one of their own.
This is exactly what Bilbo had been doing
Whatever were they thinking?