Chiswick Lifeboat Stars In Soggy Dog Story

RNLI crew reunites Chelsea the swimming dog with her owner

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RNLI volunteer crewman Cavan Woods reunites Chelsea with her owner

Lifeboat crew rescues young pup from banks of the Thames

Chiswick Lifeboat web site

On Sunday 9th December a walker in Wandsworth Park spotted a small dog struggling in the fast running Thames.

He dialled 999 and the coastguard summoned Chiswick RNLI Lifeboat to investigate.

When the lifeboat arrived at 11.45 the crew found that the terrier had swum to the north bank and was desperately trying to scramble up the slippery river wall next to Hurlingham Park to escape the rapidly rising tide.

Two of the lifeboat crew managed to catch the dog and brought her into the lifeboat.

Helmsman Gary Tiller, who is known in the Lifeboat Station as something of a dog- whisperer, calmed the dog down and wrapped her in a blanket while they brought her back to Chiswick.

Chelsea had all the correct details on her tag, and so the crew were able to call the owner. Gary Tiller said “He was devastated at losing Chelsea four hours earlier in Kilburn, and to say that he was overwhelmed to hear she was safe would be an big understatement.”

Chelsea’s owner Eric Witchell had been seriously ill, and acquired the dog from Battersea Dog’s Home for companionship. She is slightly deaf, so when she wandered off he was unable to call her back and was not nimble enough to chase her.

Chelsea had travelled 5 miles across dozens of busy roads and survived an epic swim in the Thames, which was swollen by floodwater from the heavy rains. With only minor scratches, she happily rested in the station after her ordeal, until her owner arrived.

Although primarily dedicated towards rescuing lives at sea, RNLI lifeboat crews often have to deal with animals. When pets get into difficulty in the water, their owners or passers-by often go in to try to save them, sometimes with tragic results. On this occasion it was fortunate that the crew only had one life to save and Chelsea had her first trip in a lifeboat.

The RNLI has 233 lifeboat stations including four on the Thames. Chiswick RNLI lifeboat became operational on the 2nd January 2002. Since then it has responded to over 1,000 emergency calls. The four Thames lifeboats together have responded to over 3,500 calls. The RNLI is entirely supported by voluntary contributions.

December 11, 2007