Fiona writes about how a lovely day out walking her dog in familiar surroundings turned into a frightening experience.
The water was freezing cold despite it being a warm afternoon.
Three minutes was it all it took for me get into a life-threatening situation. Luckily I got back to safety, but I can tell you that those 180 seconds were the longest of my life.
In late July, I was walking with my gorgeous collie Ricksen in Dean Castle Country Park, which is not far from where I live. For those that aren’t familiar with the park, one of the most attractive features of Dean Castle are the streams that run through the 200-acre wooded area. Although beautiful to look at, it was entering into the water that put Ricksen and I into danger.
One of Ricksen’s favourite games is fetch. On this fateful day, I was throwing a stick and Ricksen was jubilantly bringing it back to me. We continued our sport as we made our way around the park and approached the water. As we did, we saw a young mum and her two children paddling in the stream a little way down from us. It all seemed like a perfect mid-summer’s idyll.
Not all dogs like the water and some will whine if you utter the word ‘bath’. However, Ricksen is an exception to this and loves wet play, and on this occasion I saw no harm in continuing our game of fetch near the stream.
Suddenly, Ricksen lost sight of the stick and I saw him being dragged down stream by an alarmingly strong current. Without a second thought, I entered into the water after him, without pausing to remove a single item of clothing. This was a misjudgement on my part as the water was freezing cold despite it being a warm afternoon, and the weight of my clothes made it harder to swim.
I later released I had been experiencing cold water shock.
To make matters worse I tripped on a large stone which was obscured beneath the surface of the water, and I was momentarily submerged. With panic rising and limbs flailing, I somehow managed to pull my head out of the water and get purchase on a nearby rock. This was enough to help me get out of the water and out of immediate danger.
Once I had caught my breath, I made my way to dry land. Meanwhile, thankfully Ricksen had been pulled towards the side of the water and had managed to put his two little paws on the bank. He was holding himself up and waiting to be pulled out of the water.
I got to Ricksen as soon as I could, and took both of us home. The whole episode was over quickly, but it will leave a long-lasting impression on me.
Now, I consider myself to be a strong swimmer and I have a job that requires me to be physically fit. I knew the area well and my dog was trained to be in the water. Even with all that in mind, I still found myself getting into difficulty.
I would urge everyone, no matter your level of fitness, to respect the water and be mindful about the hidden dangers of placid streams and lakes.
Article shared courtesy of RoSPA