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Rob and his Chocolate Labrador, Henley, who he saved from a flooded tidal tunnel.

Rob and his Chocolate Labrador, Henley, who he saved from a flooded tidal tunnel.

Brave Owner's Battle To Rescue Drowning Dog From The Brink Of Death

4 months ago

31st January, 2024 14h17

IVC Evidensia UK & IE

A dog owner faced a desperate race against time to save his dog from drowning in a flooded tidal tunnel.

Two-year-old chocolate Labrador Henley managed to find himself trapped inside by a metal grille, and off-duty police officer Rob Paterson fought to keep the dog’s head clear of the fast-flowing water in a tiny air gap at the tunnel end.

Minutes before he managed to get help to cut Henley free, he said an emotional farewell to his beloved dog, fearing he’d be unable to save him.

Even after the miraculous rescue, Henley was seriously ill with water in the lungs. He needed three days of intensive care in a high-tech oxygen kennel at IVC Evidensia’s Southern Counties Veterinary Specialists in Ringwood, Hampshire, to bring him back from the brink. 

Rob was out for a walk on a footpath near the mouth of the River Hamble with nine-month-old daughter Phoebe when Henley got into difficulties. 

“Henley goes in for a swim regularly when the tide is in, and there’s never been a problem,” said Rob from Warsash. “There’s a sluice tunnel under the path, taking the water to the marshland on the other side. Suddenly, I saw Henley struggling as he swam past it, and then he went under. 

“I thought he’d been swept against the entrance by the power of the water and knew he was in trouble.” 

Rob left Phoebe with a fellow walker, jumped in out of his depth and was horrified to find the grille was missing, and Henley had been swept right through the two-metre-wide tunnel. 

He clambered back over the path and into the water on the other side, but there was a grille stopping Henley from getting out, and he was being crushed against it by the surging water. 

“He was almost fully submerged, with just a little air gap at the top,” said Rob. 

“I couldn’t get the grille off, and all I could do was keep his nose clear through the space between the bars. The lady who had Phoebe called 999, but as a policeman, I couldn’t think who would be able to help and whether they’d get to us in time. 

“The water was coming in higher and higher, and I must have been in there for about 20 minutes. Henley was right by my face, looking at me, and I had to say my goodbyes, telling him there was nothing I could do. It was absolutely traumatic.” 

With time running out, Rob remembered a boatyard along the river and got the lady to call there to see if they could help. A worker with an angle grinder raced to the scene and cut a couple of bars loose to allow them to pull Henley through the gap. 

He was struggling to breathe, and Rob rushed him to his vets, who quickly referred him to Southern Counties Veterinary Specialists.

“Henley was brought into us as an emergency, and radiographs had shown he has aspirated water into his lungs, causing severe pneumonia,” said vet Charlotte Lea. 

“We gave him antibiotics, but importantly, we were also able to supply high concentrations of oxygen because his lungs were struggling to absorb enough. 

“Our oxygen kennels are like sealed bubbles, and we can increase the oxygen concentrations to high levels, which we did with Henley. That supported him while the water was absorbed by the lungs, and the antibiotics fought any infection. Being a strong, healthy dog really helped. 

“We were gradually able to reduce the oxygen concentrations, and thankfully, he was well enough to breathe in room air after three days. Rob did an amazing job in saving him and seeing them reunited was lovely.” 

Pets needing highly-specialised care, such as orthopaedic surgery, cardiology or soft tissue surgery, are referred to Southern Counties Veterinary Specialists by their daytime vet.

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