Published: 14:15, 27 April 2022
| Updated: 14:49, 27 April 2022
A disabled man has paid tribute to a heroic mum who rescued him after his beloved dog was swept into the sea during a storm.
Jim Dixon had just got out of his car on Marina Esplanade in Ramsgate when a huge wave pulled Misty from the top of the promenade before he could reach her.
Desperate to save his dog, the 61-year-old put down his walking stick and went down the slipway into the rough sea, where he was battered by the waves while trying to hold Misty above the water.
Quick-thinking mum-of-three Samantha Merifield, described as a hero by passers-by, jumped into action and managed to grab the dog and haul Mr Dixon up.
Her partner and Mark Burgess, manager of the nearby Ramsgate Tunnels, raced to help and carried him to safety.
Just the day before, on March 31, a father had died while trying to save his dog in the same place.
Mr Dixon, from Ramsgate, says his rescuers were exceptionally brave and he can't thank them enough.
"The waves were about 20ft high in places," he said.
"There's a parking bay for disabled cars and it's just by Ramsgate Tunnels and the new flats. I got Misty out of the car and picked up my camera, and when I turned around to see where she was, she wasn't next to me, which is really unusual.
"I scanned around to see her being swept into the sea by this great big wave that came over the top.
"It lifted her up and took her out. I was absolutely petrified of losing her."
Mr Dixon rescued Misty two years ago from a dog breeder who had been breeding fighting dogs.
She had been beaten almost to death and was severely underweight.
She is now his assistance dog and registered as an emotional support animal.
"I suffer from PTSD, anxiety and depression. I had a terrible accident in which I broke my neck, ruptured my bowel, it was terrible," he said.
"Misty became my partner, my best friend, she stopped me committing suicide.
"It meant losing her wasn't an option. I couldn't stand there and let her die."
He says he went into the water and managed to grab her but the weight of her pushed him down as he tried to keep her above the waves.
"When I came back up, Samantha was there, and she got hold of Misty," he said.
"Before I'd gone in, I'd seen her at the top calling the dog, she asked me her name.
"She was straight away on the ball. She then got in to save me."
He says it was like being in a washing machine. He was being thrown around but managed to dig his fingers into the seabed and crawl to the sea wall where he clung on.
"I couldn't catch my breath and I was in agony," he said.
It was then he was hauled up by his arm by Samantha, who was helped by her children's father and Mr Burgess who carried the stricken pensioner to safety.
Fortunately he escaped with just a broken rib and four-year-old Misty was unhurt.
"I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart, they are exceptionally brave people," he said.
"Samantha was brilliant."
But modest Miss Merifield, 28, says she would never have just sat back and done nothing.
"I didn't endanger myself and I had to try at least," she said.
"People say they can swim, but it's not about that. The currents and waves were awful. Jim and Misty took such a battering."
She admits the terror in Jim's voice will stay with her forever
"I jumped down into a little crevice because I thought if I go there I wouldn't be going far," she recalls.
"Jim is made of steel, he wasn't giving up. I don't know how he did it. I can't believe he only got one cracked rib.
"He was under the water, with the dog in the air, I was thinking 'you need to come up too'.
"I got hold of the dog and out the water. Once I got the dog it was a case of getting Jim up.
"He could crawl along the edge and I hauled him up and then my kids' dad, he can't swim, with another bloke helped pull him out all the way."
She says there needs to be more signs warning people of how dangerous it is there.
"People say they can swim, but it's not about that. The currents and waves were awful. Jim and Misty took such a battering.
"Misty wasn't even on the slope, she was just at the top, not even near the water, and she was gone in seconds. There wasn't a lifebuoy that I could see nearby either.
"The waves were phenomenal. We'd actually changed our route home because the waves were so big we thought we'd better go back.
"I'm so grateful we did, otherwise we wouldn't have been there to help."
She says the bond between Mr Dixon and his dog is 'phenomenal'.
"She adores him, he adores her," she added. "I'm just so glad we could help."