Shark plunge helps Ashleigh beat phobia

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A Glenrothes woman has overcome a lifelong phobia of fish and the sea to swim with a school of sharks, reports NEIL HENDERSON.

Brave Ashleigh Shiels took the plunge at Fife’s Deep Sea World last weekend to raise awareness for the dog rescue charity that she is involved in.

And her efforts certainly made a splash with friends and family who were there to support Ashleigh as she got up close and personal with as many as a dozen of the ocean’s most feared predators.

In the days leading up to the dive, the 39-year-old contemplated throwing in the towel on the whole mad-cap idea and admitted to the Gazette that she had been ‘petrified.’

She said: “I thought I’d be swimming with ‘a’ shark, as in just one, but I was later informed that there would be up to a dozen in there with me all at the same time and that just about freaked me out.

“I have had a phobia about going into the sea and have refused to do so for as long as I can remember and normally can’t even stand the sight of fish, let alone the thought of being near a live one.

“I said to myself it’s about time I did something about conquering my fears whilst raising funds and publicising the charity at the same time so what better way than to swim with sharks?”

Ashleigh has recently been made Scotland Area Co-ordinator for the UK German Shepherd Rescue organisation (UK-GSR), a network of volunteers who specialise in rescuing and re-homing German Shepherd dogs and puppies across the UK.

She explained her involvement: “I already had one German Shepherd named Kaiser and have since taken in a second (Hamish) and because of that set up a Facebook page to share information with fellow owners and offer an informal communication group.

“Soon after a friend put me in touch with the non profit making charity after I’d been contacted about a dog that was about to be abandoned, and now there are 26 of us affiliated to the organisation.

And now that one of her fears has been confronted, Ashleigh is ready to tackle another of her dislikes, the fear of heights, with either a parachute skydive or an abseil down the side of a building.

>> To contact the volunteer group telephone 01925-634699