Long Beach swimming legend Lynne Cox writes about water rescue dogs in new book – San Bernardino Sun

Lynne Cox is a bestselling author and world-renowned open-water swimmer who has been setting records since she was a teenager. So when Cox happened to see a video online of another extreme athlete like herself leaping out of a helicopter to rescue a swimmer in a lake, she was fascinated by the skills and courage it took to jump into the water without hesitation.

And it was all the more fascinating for the Long Beach resident because this athlete was a dog.

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The furry black Newfoundland is one of the brave members of the Scuola Italiana Cani Salvataggio, or Italian School of Rescue Dogs, who work alongside the Italian Coast Guard to rescue swimmers.

“I really wanted to find out how these dogs were trained, how they became such elite athletes,” said Cox, who besides being a world-class extreme swimmer, is also an accomplished author who has written six other books including “Swimming to Antarctica,” a story that recounts her experience swimming in frigid waters and “Grayson,” about a baby gray whale that was got lost near Seal Beach. And now, she’s written about these canine athletes in her latest book, “Tales of Al: The Water Rescue Dog.”

“It was curiosity, initially, and then I realized there was a story that emerged from the experience,” said Cox, who spent about two weeks at the Italian school getting to know the dogs. In the book, she focuses on a brown female Newfoundland named Al who was just starting her training at the elite school when Cox visited 10 years ago or so.

But while Al’s journey to becoming an rescue dog is the thread that binds the story, the book is also part memoir as Cox writes about her own early experiences in the water when she started her swimming career at Long Beach’s Belmont Pool. It’s also a travel and food story since she writes about the Italian cuisine she ate there and the book is also an inspirational guide for other athletes.

“It’s more than a story just about Al and about the school; it’s more about other dogs and swimming and about courage and overcoming obstacles,” she said.

Cox, who was born in Boston, grew up in Los Alamitos and now lives in Long Beach. She first became known as an extreme open water swimmer when in 1972 at the age of 15 she set the world record for the fastest crossing of the English Channel from England to France in less than 10 hours.

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