WITH his thick flowing locks, well-toned 10-stone physique and strong swimming style Rufus the dog would not be out of place on the cast of Baywatch.
But the black fuzzy-haired Newfoundland much prefers to hang out in the Holme Valley than on the golden beaches of LA.
Despite this, owner Rebecca Hodgson says he’s ready to leap into action if anyone falls foul of the many lakes and reservoirs in Huddersfield and the valleys.
The 26-year-old from Holmbridge and her partner Dave Truman have been training two-year-old Rufus up as a water rescue dog since he was a pup.
The web-footed hound can now take life rings out to drowning people, pull boats in to shore and drag a boat full of up to seven people.
Rufus hasn’t had the chance to rescue someone yet but he’s won the Elmo trophy for top water Newfoundland in the North of England so he’s highly qualified.
Rebecca, who works as a manager for the School of History at Leeds University, said: “He really does have webbed feet like all Newfoundlands – it helps him swim.
“And he’s got a double coat of fur with the outer one being waterproof.
“The reason why he’s so good at life-saving is that Newfoundlands don’t doggy paddle they use their webbed feet to do a mixture of doggy paddle and breast stroke. That means he can swim really fast.””
While on dry land Rebecca gets him to pull her weekly shopping home.
She said: “The kids around Holmfirth absolutely love it. Whenever we’re out we always get groups of people gathered around wanting to stroke him.
“I get him to cart my shopping around all the time by pulling a cart behind him.”
Rufus trains every Sunday in the summer at the Rother Valley Training Group in South Yorkshire.
Rebecca said: “We have to pretend to be drowning and unconscious and he will come and rescue us and then he will pull boats with people in and he’s happy towing strangers.”
Rufus lives with Rebecca and Dave and their three cats, near to Brownhill Reservoir.
Rebecca said: “He gets along all right with the cats surprisingly but the cats do put him in his place.
“When he’s in the house he more or less is lying down or sitting down so he doesn’t take up as much room as you would think.
“But when he’s outside you can tell how big he is and he takes a lot of grooming.
“He’s really sweet and gentle and can be a bit cheeky.
“As soon as the alarm goes off in the morning he jumps on the bed and gives you a wash – he licks you all over.”
“He’s only young so he can act like a teenager and can be stubborn.”