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People profile: Pete Lewin

Paramedic and swift water rescue technician

Published in Sports Management Nov Dec 2017 issue 134
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Lewin uses Newfoundland dogs to promote water safety and confidence
Lewin uses Newfoundland dogs to promote water safety and confidence

What does your company, Pete Lewin Newfoundlands, do?
It’s a non-profit company that uses Newfoundland dogs to promote water safety and water confidence through workshops at schools and scout groups, as well as at open-water venues.

Where did the motivation come from?
Each year, more devastating statistics arise regarding children drowning in the UK. Teaching water safety should be a priority for everyone with children, and for educational institutions.
Many years ago, I almost drowned and became scared of the water, but my dogs built up my water confidence again.

Described as the St Bernards of the sea, Newfoundlands are natural life savers, thanks to their intelligence, webbed feet and thick coats. They think for themselves and can drag 12 people with buoyancy aids all at once, as well as kayaks and boats.

How do the dogs help build people’s confidence?
They’re a brilliant way of engaging both children and adults. The dogs are so enthusiastic that it rubs off: they’ve taken many children for a swim who had never been in the water before. Some have been petrified of water, but are happy to go in with these big beautiful creatures. Even if it’s just an on-land talk, the dogs make the occasion memorable and help to impart the message.

I also take adults out for emotional support swims with the dogs. Often these people are going through a tough time in their lives, but find it cathartic having an open-water swim with buoyancy aids and the dogs, and this can inspire them to start pool swimming more regularly.

How can leisure operators engage with what you do?
A few have allowed us into the pool, but most worry about the dog hair clogging up the filters. But we can still do water safety talks to flag up the issue and promote their swimming lessons.

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