THE swift actions of the RNLI averted disaster when a family day-out at the beach turned into a nightmare.
Laura Birchall, 31, her fiancé Alex Fiott, 32 and her son Bailey Birchall, seven, were enjoying a fun day on Hayling beach, close to the entrance to Chichester Harbour.
But when their dog Bella went for a paddle, everything went downhill as she got swept into the treacherous currents at the entrance to the harbour.
Alex jumped into the water to save the dog, not realising that the currents can be lethal.
Laura, a carer, of Shearer Road, Fratton, said: ‘Some kids were throwing stones in the water which got her attention.
‘Then she jumped in after. She starting swimming out a bit too far and the current started to pull her away.
‘We tried calling her back, but sometimes when she’s swimming she gets a bit naughty and doesn’t want to listen. She thinks she’s a fish.
‘The current took her out so quickly. I was quite frantic. Bailey was circling round. My fiancé jumped in after her and started to swim out.’
Luckily, Andy Ferguson, senior helm for Hayling RNLI, was on the beach and heard the commotion as Laura and Bailey screamed out for the dog.
Andy shouted several times for Alex to return to shore and set about launching the lifeboat.
Laura said: ‘They were very skilful, manoeuvring around her. They were brilliant – they pulled up right next to her and scooped her out of the water.’
Bella, a three-year-old Staffie cross, was very shaken up and vomited after ingesting lots of seawater, but within a day was back to her normal self.
Bailey said: ‘I was very happy. It was good to have her back.’
Laura, who keeps a boat at Eastney and regularly goes on the water, said: ‘The RNLI are fantastic.
‘They are a real asset to the community.’
Alan Bartlett, spokesman for Hayling RNLI, said: ‘We want to praise the actions of several vessels in staying on the scene and protecting both the dog and the swimmer from being run down.’
Crew member Phil Terry added: ‘Bailey’s face when the crew handed over the dog to him was a picture of happiness and makes the job we do in saving lives worthwhile.’