Ipswich: Hero firefighters pluck 13 stone dog from icy depths

IPSWICH: With snow falling, temperatures plummeting and icy water lapping his legs, it wasn’t looking good for much-loved Marley.

Trapped in the slimy town centre reaches of the River Orwell, the burly mastiff had become spooked and had plunged into the river in the middle of the blizzards of Thursday evening.

In the darkness, with 13-stone Marley unable to free himself and get his giant frame up the slippery, snow-clad banks, owner Reg Johnson was starting to think the worst.

Then, at the point of utter despair and with one-year-old Marley looking even sadder than he does on a good day, hope arrived in the form of a big red fire tender.

Enter, stage right, the heroes of Ipswich’s Blue Watch – from Princes Street fire station. Water rescue experts at hand just when they were needed!

Today, the firefighters were hailed as heroes after one of the most dramatic animal rescues Ipswich has witnessed.

And Marley was lapping up the attention and taking many kisses on his drooping jowls after a good night’s sleep and a gigantic meal.

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Last night, he was re-united with his rescue team at Princes Street – by now thankfully bathed and clear of the stinking river mud which had nearly caused his demise.

Marley, an English Mastiff, spent almost 15 minutes in the River Orwell after escaping from Mr Johnson on Thursday evening.

Blue Watch was called to the scene just off Felaw Maltings in Felaw Street and plucked Marley from the icy depths.

Mr Johnson had taken Marley for an evening walk, but events took a turn for the worse after the huge hound got spooked and jumped over a wall.

Mr Johnson said: “I had him on his lead when all of a sudden he got frightened, ran off and scaled this wall. I think he was mis-treated as a puppy and sometimes he gets a bit jumpy.

“I looked down and he was in the river. He managed to land on a ledge in the middle of the water. Luckily it was low tide so the water only came up to his legs.

“But I was in a state of panic. The water is freezing cold at this time of year and I knew that if it rose quickly he would be in serious trouble.”

Mr Johnson called 999 and within six minutes members of Suffolk Fire Service’s Blue Watch team were on hand to start the rescue operation.

Crews positioned an inflatable raft in the river and after a bit of coaxing Marley was able to wander along it back to the riverbank.

Mr Johnson added: “He seemed pleased to see me. I checked him over to see if he had any injuries but he felt fine.

“Later that night, I gave him a warm bath just to make sure he made a full recovery, which thankfully he has done.

“He’s a lucky boy. He spent just under 15 minutes in the water and must have been getting scared. Obviously I’d like to say a big thank you to the fire crews.”

Rob Woodard, Watch Manager from Suffolk Fire Service, said: “This was the first dog rescue we’ve carried out so far this winter and thankfully everything went to plan.

“In such situations, we would advise dog owners not to jump in to try to help. That would be putting their own safety at risk and making our job twice as difficult.”

Tail-piece: Today Marley, following a good night’s sleep in his huge basket, was given his usual walk through the town centre and showed no signs of jumpiness.

n Send Marley a message – or tell us your animal rescue story. Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.