An RSPCA worker who risked her life by rescuing a young family’s dog from drowning has been given one of the charity’s top honours.

Julie Vickers, who is an animal care assistant at Altham RSPCA centre, has received the Queen Victoria Silver Medal for Animal Saving.

Julie heroically swam across a reservoir last June to rescue a 14-year-old dog Foxi Lady which had got into difficulty in strong currents, with her terrified family fearing the worst.

Her colleagues at the RSPCA put her forward to receive the prestigious award which was presented at the branch last week.

Julie, 37, said the award came as a ‘complete surprise’.

She said: “They kept it all a secret from me. It was a massive shock to be honest.

“Obviously I was over the moon that everybody did this for me and I’m so happy.

“I came into the reception and it was crowded with people and I didn’t know what was happening. We had a bit of a party and then had to get back to work.”

The medal was presented by RSPCA chief inspector Beth Clements who said she had never heard of anybody receiving the award as it is so rare.

 

An RSPCA spokesperson said: “What Julie did has not only made Foxi’s family very happy, as well as made all of her family, friends and colleagues at RSPCA Altham animal centre very proud of her, but it is also very dangerous.

“We do not advise anybody to swim after a pet as there are a great many dangers.”

Julie, from Darwen, was walking her own dog Misty when she heard shouting and children screaming.

Julie dived into the water without hesitation, put a lead around Foxi’s neck and swam her back to safety.

Joanne Dunleavy-Nelson, who owns Foxi and was out with her three children when the incident happened, said the award was well deserved.

She said: “What she did was an incredible, selfless, brave and courageous act.

“It is not something I could have done as I had my three children at the time.

“It was quite a way out that she swam as she was right in the middle of the lake.

“We are indebted to her. When she went home she told her mum that she couldn’t let the children see the dog die like that as they wouldn’t get over it.”

 

Foxi Lady with Saffy Dunleavy-Nelson, Joanne's daughter