A rescue dog who was terrified of water as a puppy has captured hearts after footage of her fearlessly diving into the sea was shared on social media.
Four-year-old Misa likely spent the beginning of her life in a Gozo quarry, where she survived a flood that drowned most of her siblings.
She was eventually rescued and put in the Island Sanctuary, in Marsaxlokk from where adventure-loving Bjorn Schembri adopted her.
It was when Schembri took his energetic new pet to the beach that he realised the dog had a problem.
“She was terrified and she scratched me up in panic, that’s how much she didn’t want to be next to the water,” he said.
Nevertheless, Schembri continued trying to help her overcome her fear by taking her to play by the coast to acclimatise her.
“One day, I was throwing pebbles for her to chase and one landed in a shallow pool,” he recalls. “She was so single-minded in retrieving the pebble that she dove right in like it didn’t even occur to her that she was submerged in water.”
Slowly getting bolder with his attempts to get Misa to swim, Schembri realised that play was the key to getting her to overcome her fears and turn her into a fully-fledged adventure dog.
“We kept at it and it was clear that she enjoys it and likes being active,” Schembri said.
“As she started diving deeper, I got curious and started to measure where the stone would fall. She managed to get it at 3.6 metres in Marsascala and at 3.4 metres in Xlendi Bay.”
Schembri believes that Misa might potentially be achieving record-breaking dives locally and plans to get together with other dog owners to put their pups to the test.
According to the Guinness World Records database, the deepest dive by a dog was set at four metres by a dog named Shadow in the Cayman Islands in 2002, which leaves Misa only a few centimetres shy of record-breaking dives.
Misa – a mix of German Shepherd, Pitbull, Pointer and Pharaoh Hound – has come a long way since her first visit to the beach.
Nowadays, she can be seen leaping off the coast and diving into the water to retrieve balls or stones that are thrown for her.
Schembri says that adopting Misa is “one of the best decisions” of his life and he has no regrets about changing aspects of his lifestyle to accommodate her.
He says she “chose him” after she refused to be separated from him after their first meeting at the sanctuary.
“It was my first time getting a pet and I wanted to adopt because I really wanted to give a chance at life to a rescue dog,” he said.
“I asked them for an energetic puppy and the first two they brought out didn’t really click with me. When they brought her to meet me we immediately bonded.”
It was much later that Schembri discovered Misa’s harsh start to life. On a trip to Gozo, Schembri met a person who recognised Misa and was able to shed some light on her beginnings.
Misa was likely one of a litter of nine puppies who were born in a quarry to a guard dog, Schembri was told. Unfortunately, during a February storm, the quarry flooded and most of the litter drowned, likely leaving Misa with a paralysing fear of water as a young dog.
After finding a creative way of helping Misa overcome her fears, Schembri has only one fear of his own. “The only downside is knowing that her life will likely be shorter than mine and I dread the day that I might lose her,” he said.
Schembri is currently documenting Misa’s aquatic escapades on TikTok, YouTube and Instagram under the username @underwaterbeast.