A Greenwich crowd looked on yesterday afternoon (March 16) as a woman desperately held her exhausted dog’s head above water to stop it drowning in the Thames.

The golden labrador  had jumped over the railing and into the water at Ballast Quay, near the Cutty Sark pub, at about 11.40pm.

It tired as it tried in vain to swim against a strong spring tide, prompting its desperate owner to climb 20ft down a ladder and wade out into the fast flowing water.

A quick witted onlooker phoned the emergency services and an RNLI crew from Tower lifeboat station raced to the rescue.

Helmsman Stuart Morrison said: "We arrived to find a woman waist deep in the river holding her golden Labrador’s head above water. It was a big dog and seemed exhausted so there was no way she would have been able to get it to safety herself.

"We got the woman and the dog into our lifeboat and took them to Admiralty Step about 100m away. She was incredibly relieved and grateful."

He added: "I know it can be difficult but we would urge people not to go into the water to save their pets because the Thames can be a dangerous river and you’ll likely need rescuing too.

"The best way to help a dog that has fallen into a river is to find a place on the bank where the dog to get out, stand there and call to them so they swim towards you."

To find out more about the RNLI, visit their website.