Old school friends Lisa Powell and Thom Wilson-Parry have been hailed ‘heroes’ after they saved the life of a puppy who was swept away by the River Dee while chasing ducks.
Lisa works for a Chester dog grooming and walking company and was walking seven-month old Springer Spaniel Mr Darcy along the riverbank near the Ship Inn at Handbridge when he began swimming after the birds.
But he was soon in difficulties when the current swept him out of sight and he became trapped inside a salmon counting station, a cage-like structure with water gushing through its bars not far from Chester Weir.
Lisa, 30, of Handbridge, waded into the river, clung on to the bars of the station and began shouting for help when Thom, who was out for a run, heard her cries and swung into action.
Thom, 31, of Queen’s Park dashed into the water and squeezed through the bars before grabbing Mr Darcy who was just inches away from a grid through which he could have been swept out of the station and on towards the weir.
The current was threatening to drag Lisa’s legs from under her and now, with Mr Darcy perched safely around Thom’s shoulders, he threw his arm around her waist before hauling them back to the riverbank.
Mr Darcy’s owner Annabel Anslow, 36, an actress who lives in Chester, said: “They went above and beyond the call of duty. While I’m incredibly grateful to Lisa and Thom for saving Mr Darcy, I would not have wanted them to put their lives at risk. They are both heroes.”
The drama unfolded late afternoon last Wednesday as Lisa took Mr Darcy out for his final walk of the day.
Lisa, who works at Tails in the City in Handbridge and went to Queen’s Park High School with Thom, said: “Mr Darcy is usually obedient and listens to commands. But on this occasion when he began following the ducks and I told him to come back to me he didn’t listen.
“When he disappeared from view I felt fear but waded into the water.
“By the time I found him in the salmon station the water was up to my shoulders. I held on to the bars but the current was so strong my legs were going from under me.”
It was at this point Thom, a climbing and mountaineering advisor at Ellis Brigham in the city, came to the rescue.
He said: “I’m quite a bit taller than Lisa so the water was up to my chest. I squeezed through the bars and could see the dog 12-15ft away swimming around like mad.
“I waded over and grabbed him by the collar. He looked scared and practically jumped up around my shoulders.
“With one hand steadying the dog I used my free hand to grab the bars overhead and monkey-bar my way back to Lisa.”
Both were quick to reject the suggestion they behaved like heroes.
Lisa said: “I don’t feel like a hero. Mr Darcy’s owners had entrusted him into my care and I wanted to do my utmost to look after him.”
Thom added: “I only did what anyone else would have done. I have a border terrier called Maggie who my sister walks. I’d like to think if they got into a similar situation someone would help them.”
Julie Beckett, who owns Tails in the City, said: “I’m extremely proud of Lisa. She was very brave to go into the river and so was Thom. When you’re looking after someone else’s dog you care for them more so than even your own dog.”