Absolutely serious about the dogs. There's a newf working beach rescue in England now (named Bilbo) and another one (Mas) who jumps out of helos in Italy with a rescue swimmer. The French, for purposes I've forgotten, actually did tests to figure out that one Newf was sufficient to pull one lifeboat with 20 people on it. Dunno why, maybe because a Newf supposedly was launched to rescue Napolean when he fell overboard way back.
The dogs were once "standard issue" at the original US lifesaving service stations on the east coast, and they are still trained and worked in competition for water rescue skills. They're also very good with children, which is why they were sometimes called "Nana dogs" and why the original "Nana" in Peter Pan was a role inspired by and written for a Newf. Of course, doggie brains being doggie brains, even the best doggie Nana might let the children fly away with faeries, there's a lesson to be learned about hiring cheap help I suppose.
Newfs were bred to be kept on boats, often literally in a closet or locker, so they tend to be very mellow in nature. A kid can pull out their tongue, tie it to their tail, and eat their dinner and the dog will usually make no protest, somehow they understand that no harm is intended. A most unusual breed, bred for this type of role, although there's a certain amount of hair and slobber that comes with having double-coated livestock around.
Check out http://www.newfclubne.org/ one of the clubs that does water trials.