Discover the mascot Gastone

Black Newfoundland and 64kg of weight, Gastone is a ‘sweet and loving’ dog, and a ‘living lifesafer” who is able to intervene promptly in case of need. Gastone is not only a wonderful dog, but a real dog lifeguard that works together with human lifeguards. He is now four years old, but in the early months of his life, he already showed a great passion for water. Let’s get to know Gastone better through the words of his owner Elena.

Could you please describe us the moment when you first met Gastone?
“Gastone was born in a dog breeding, located in the province of Viterbo. At that time we already had a Newfoundland called Margot and we went there to see some friends’ litter. I remember that there were three adorable balls of fluff: while two of them were running and playing like all puppies, he got closer to my legs. He didn’t want to play, he just wanted cuddles, love and attention. I immediately understood that from that moment it would be me taking care of him with all the love and affection he needed.”

Can we then say that it was Gastone that picked you?
“Let’s say that we picked each other. He came to me right away despite we were surrounded by other people, and I spotted him immediately. Maybe I was the first one to fall in love.” (laughing)

Why did you name him Gastone?
“Do you know Donald Duck? Well, we thought to give him the same name of Donald Duck’s lucky cousin with the idea of wishing our Gastone to get the same luck for his entire life.”

Does he have a nickname?
“No, but the words that I say more often is: Come on Gas!”

If you want to convince someone to host Gastone at home, what would you say?
“It’s really difficult to keep me away from Gastone. He follows me everywhere. If I had to convince someone to host him, I would say that with Gastone you will never feel lonely. He always wants to be in the room with someone, and when there is a possibility, he gets closer in search of a hug.”

How does Gastone behave with other people?
“Gastone is very sweet and open with everyone. Over the past years we have been participating in a few pet therapy programmes. I like remembering when we met a kid with a disability. At the very beginning the child was very scared and Gastone felt this: he stood still and only moved when the kid got curious and came closer to pet him. He showed his sweetness and finally they hugged each other. It was an amazing moment. We are still in touch with him and his family. When we go out, we don’t pass unnoticed. Every day someone approaches us but there is a problem: if you start petting him, you need to carry on for a few minutes, otherwise he starts barking to request for some more cuddles.”

How is a day in the life for Gastone?
“At 8:00 my husband takes him and his sister Margot to the park for an hour of running, relaxing and playing with other dogs, then he comes home for food. He sleeps until the early afternoon, always together with his sister. When I get home around 15:00, I pet him and we go back to the park for a couple of hours. After that, we go home: couch, TV and dinner. He then falls asleep on the sofa close to Margot”.

Among all dogs, who is Gastone’s favourite friend?
“Technically Gastone is ‘engaged’ but he likes playing the role of Casanova. By the way I’d like to alert beautiful Lea about the fact that Gastone has a soft spot for blondies and could fall in love with her.” (laughing)

Can you tell us how Gastone has become a rescue dog?
“For Gastone the approach to water has started very early thanks to his sister Margot who is already an official rescue dog. In the first months of his life, we took him to the seaside to get some confidence with water. Newfoundlands have an excellent relation with water, but his sister for example doesn’t have the same passion for the sea. When every Saturday evening we pack for the following day’s training, he starts wagging his tail for half and hour around the bag. He gets really excited. He trains about three hours a week in water, making exercises with us and getting specific training instructions.”

Would you recommend attending a rescue dog course?
“Sure, and for many reasons. First of all, by getting a chance to a dog to carry out an activity with his/her owner, it strengthens their bond. Then, it helps a dog to fine tune his/her perception of danger. At the beginnning, before taking part in a rescue dog course, Gastone got into the sea with an impulse of bringing you back to the shore. He started swimming around you like a shark, until he obliged you to get out of water. Sometimes he pushed with his paw; in other words he couldn’t understand the situation of no danger and above all he didn’t listen to my orders. After the course Gastone acquired great skills of perceiving a real danger, respecting and executing our orders. He became more obedient and responsible, in water as well as in everyday’s life.”

Has he ever made a sea rescue?
“Yes, long before getting the patent, and just for natural instict. We were in Sardinia and I was swimming in the sea with Gastone in a small bay in Palau while we were doing some basic rescue exercises. Further out, there were some children with a windsurfing trainer. At a certain point I saw a child, who was far behind the others, with his surfboard overturned. The trainer was looking on the opposite side and didn’t notice him, carrying on with his lessons. With the mistral blowing, in a few seconds the child was carried away from the bay on the open sea. At that moment I didn’t think about my dog. I started swimming as quick as possible to reach him. Once I approached him, struggling and with all the people worried on the shore, I turned my head and saw that Gastone was there. I didn’t see him coming, but he already took the cord of the surfboard carrying us to the shore. I tried to calm the child down while Gastone was rescuing us. When we made it to the shore, the child ran towards his mum. And when everyone was relieved, they came to thank us with a long hug for Gastone. It was a very touching moment for all of us.”

Are you happy that Gastone is the official mascot of Roma 2022?
“I believe this is a great initiative. It’s a unique opportunity to increase the diffusion of rescue dog swimming, search dogs and the techniques to swim in a responsible manner. Many people don’t know all the efforts and work that lifeguards put on to prevent danger and ensure security. I am extremely happy that Gastone will be the official mascot for the European Championships that will take place in my home town.”

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