Monday 30th March 2020 12:00
This was the heart-warming moment Thames Water engineers rescued a pet pooch after it got stuck chasing a rat up a pipe in Oxford.
Olive, a Bedlington terrier, had been trapped for almost 24 hours after chasing the rodent into an outfall waste pipe near a stream during a walk in Florence Park, Cowley, on Friday.
After being unable to find her that day or the following morning, the dog’s owner called Thames Water and engineers James Lewis and Jack Gale - more used to clearing fatbergs than furballs - were dispatched to the scene to tackle the unusual blockage.
James initially tried crawling up the pipe himself, but it got too narrow, so the pair spent the next two hours lifting manhole covers along the length of the pipe before finally finding Olive and lifting her out to safety. She was wet and muddy, but otherwise fit and healthy.
James said: “We’ve both got dogs ourselves, so it was such an emotional moment to get her out. I had a lump in my throat. It was a fantastic feeling as we’d both worked really hard. We also had to be 100 per cent professional. If we’d shown fear or anxiety, that would’ve made the situation a lot worse for the owner.
“Olive was bouncing around with excitement when she was finally free, it made our day. Her owner had a tear in her eye, she was so thankful, so relieved. She said she hadn’t slept all night.”
People will continue to see engineers like James and Jack in the community during the coronavirus outbreak after the government classed water company staff as key workers. It means Thames Water staff, who cannot fulfil their roles from home, will be out working in roads, at water and sewage treatment sites and in the company’s control and customer centre offices, in line with official health advice, maintaining essential water and waste water services. Non-essential work, such as meter readings, have been reduced.
Karen Nelson, Thames Water regional network manager, said: "Our Thames Valley team has worked so hard over the last five months during unprecedented wet weather to protect our customers from flooding and protect the environment. Now the team finds itself in a new challenge which has not been experienced before, but everyone’s so passionate about our customers they will always go the extra mile. I am so grateful to James and Jack, and so proud of every member of the team and what we achieve every day."
Thames Water has set up a dedicated coronavirus webpage - thameswater.co.uk/help-and-advice/coronavirus - where customers can go to find out how to reschedule house visits if they feel unwell as well as the full range of support options for those who need help paying their water bill.