The Lab was on holiday with Eleonara Tibbs and her family on the south coast of the Isle of Wight. The dog had always hated hang-gliders, but it was never thought that one would almost cause her death.
Frightened by a glider, the Labrador rushed into the sea to escape. She was so distraught that she ignored all calls to come back. The dog was swimming straight towards France.
Twenty four hours later Pepper was was found alive by walkers.
Family and concerned onlookers searched desperately. Teenagers tried in vain to swim after her. A neighbour set out in his boat and the Freshwater Inshore Rescue boat searched until dark.
“A Labrador’s head is very small and dark in the swell of the English Channel,” said Eleonora, “and as dark came the search was inevitably called off.”
The family resigned themselves to the fact Pepper would probably have drowned.
“But twenty four hours later Andrew Tapp and his wife were out walking and spotted an exhausted Labrador asleep, stranded on rocks at the bottom of cliffs about five-and-a-half kilometres from where she had plunged into the sea,” said Eleonora.
“They managed to get down to her and help her up the cliff despite her sore paws, probably hurt when she had to scrabble out on the rocks to get above the sea at high tide.”
It is thought that the Labrador was most likely caught up in the tide. It would have pushed westward for about an hour and then back for several hours. Pepper probably endured more than six hours of swimming in an area renowned for shipwrecks..
Labs are bred to swim. They have webbed feet, a water-resistant coat with extra insulation, and an otter-tail which aids steering.
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