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Swansea Jack: Canine Lifeguard



Jack became a famous dog in history for saving lives from the docks and riverbanks of Swansea.




Jack, born in 1930 and owned by William Thomas, was a black retriever who loved to lounge on the docks of Swansea. In 1931, Jack saved a 12 year old boy from drowning in the nearby river. The rescue was unnoticed by the community, but the boy maintained it was Jack who jumped into the water and pulled him to safety. This astonishing act went unreported, but a few weeks later Jack rescued another distressed swimmer in front of a crowd of people who watched anxiously in suspense. This time his heroic story appeared in the paper, and the local council was so impressed that they presented Jack with a silver collar.

Swansea Jack, as the dog came to be known, continued to save lives. He was said to patrol the docks and beaches, ready to rescue those who needed his help. Jack soon became a celebrity and often appeared with Thomas at shows and functions, where people were photographed alongside the famous dog.

In 1936, Jack was awarded Bravest Dog of the Year by the London Star newspaper. He received a silver cup from the Lord Mayor of London, and he was given two bronze medals from the National Canine Defense League (now known as Dogs Trust).

Jack died at an early age in 1937 after eating rat poison put down near his home. According to a news article after his death "He had not only perfect courage and the instincts of his grand breed; but he had an innate genius for knowing just how and where to seize even the most hysterical human, struggling in deep water; and how best to tow the victim safely to shore."





Jack's body was wrapped and then buried in Thomas's home garden. The Swansea public felt Jack deserved recognition for all the lives he saved and suggested the dog should have a proper burial place befitting his heroism. A local undertaker made a coffin for Jack's body, which was exhumed from Thomas's garden, and his body was laid to rest near the sea on the promenade in Swansea, at a public ceremony. One year after his death, to commemorate his bravery, a memorial stone was erected on the burial site. The epitaph reads:


ERECTED TO THE MEMORY OF
SWANSEA JACK
THE BRAVE RETRIEVER WHO SAVED 27 HUMAN
AND 2 CANINE LIVES FROM DROWNING
LOVED AND MOURNED BY ALL DOG LOVERS
DIED OCTOBER 2ND 1937 AT THE AGE OF 7 YEARS
NE'ER HAD MANKIND MORE FAITHFUL FRIEND THAN THOU
WHO OFT THY LIFE DIDST LEND TO SAVE SOME HUMAN
SOUL FROM DEATH
OWNER & TRAINER WM. THOMAS


In 2000, Jack was named Dog of the Century by Newfound Friends.