For Lyric the Labrador, being a guide dog is only one of her many hidden talents. Recently, on World Drowning Prevention Day on July 25, Nelson Mandela Bay’s Lyric also made history when she became the first canine in the country to be affiliated to Lifesaving South Africa, during an event at the Bluewater Bay Surf Lifesaving Club.
Residents can soon be on the lookout for dogs in red and yellow harnesses, as this is the first step towards training dogs to become lifesavers.
Six-year-old Lyric will be joining her handler, Stanley Faul, who suffers from an eye condition, retinitis pigmentosa, with awareness campaigns focusing on water safety.
As part of Lyric’s affiliation to Lifesaving South Africa, she will be the eyes and ears of lifeguards in areas that they cannot immediately see.
She will be patrolling the beach to check whether there are people swimming outside the perimeters and alert lifeguards when someone is in trouble in the water.
The last step will be training her to be a lifeguard herself by entering the water and saving a person in trouble.
During Lyric’s introduction at the club, Lifesaving South Africa also hosted more than 100 learners from schools around the Bay to teach the children more about water safety.
A mock rescue was also performed, in which a swimmer landed in “trouble” in the water and had to be “saved” by the lifeguards and loaded into an ambulance.
Faul said that it took two years to train Lyric as a guide dog and that she has helped him live a normal life.
“She has been on more than 300 flights, more than I think most people have been on and she goes with me everywhere I go, whether it’s for work or personal reasons,” he explained.
“She understands most of what she is told and asked and would respond using her actions.”
He added that Lyric’s affiliation with Lifesaving South Africa could mean so much and have a real impact on reducing drownings in Nelson Mandela Bay and the rest of the country.
“Lyric is my eyes and keeps me safe in dangerous situations, but can you imagine if Lyric was trained only to save me after an incident? Only after I have walked into something or after I have walked in front of a car?
“No. What would be far better is having a companion that could prevent the accident before it happens and this is the aim of her being a part of the lifesaving crew,” he said.
Yes, the lifeguards are there to help save and protect you but Lyric’s job would be to really, really prevent drowning,” Faul said.