Heroic dogwalker who saved drowning Lab from whirlpool calls for action

Bruce, a very strong Labrador, followed a stick into what appeared to be a man-made brook at Bernwood Forest and was quickly sucked into deep water.

The local dogwalker, who did not wish to be named, said within seconds only Bruce’s nose was popping out of the water.

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She said: “He’s a powerful big lad and he has plonked himself into the water area under bridge.” 

Seconds later she was forced to use all her might, sitting on the ground to grab Bruce’s lead before using his harness to rescue him. 

She said Bruce’s front feet were desperately ‘clawing at the ground’ when she finally managed to free him.  

The woman stuck around to warn others in the forest, particularly given the poor phone reception in the area, and has also warned groups on social media. 

She is now calling for fencing or some sort of infrastructure to protect small children and animals from a similar fate or worse. 

She said: “God forbid someone with a child or another smaller dog was involved.”

“It could have been a very nasty situation – and it looked like a very small, innocent body of water.” 

Forestry England has been contacted for comment but did not respond to the Oxford Mail. 

An email to the dog walker from the Forestry Commission, and seen by the Oxford Mail, read in part: “While I can appreciate the natural desire is to protect against every conceivable danger, it is not reasonable to account for every possible hazard that is inherent in a woodland environment.”

“While we will take steps to protect against out of the ordinary hazards such as forest operations or man made structures, the countryside will always have risks and we would expect our visitors to behave appropriately, and take an element of responsibility for their own safety.

“This includes looking out for those in their care who have not yet learned appropriate caution such as children or dogs.”

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The email also outlines that unseen hazards can lie below the surface of ponds and other bodies of water, but also said it could be ‘extremely damaging to wildlife’ for dogs to enter the water. 

The email said: “Disturbed silt and flea treatment medications in particular caus(ed) significant harm to insect life”.

Bernwood Forest is located on the outskirts of Oxford and was once part of The Royal Hunting Forest of Bernwood, receiving royal protection for more than 700 years. 

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