A man would do anything for his pet. That’s exactly what this Florida retiree proved to everyone when he rescued his puppy from the jaws of an alligator. The heart-stopping moment was recorded by nearby surveillance cameras in the Estero, Florida, neighborhood where he lived.
Richard Wilbanks, 74, was walking his three-month-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel one sunny day when the unthinkable happened.
An alligator suddenly shot out of the backyard pond at his Lee County home and grabbed the little dog.
“It came out of the water like a missile,” Richard recalled. “I never thought an alligator could be that fast. It was so quick.”
When the reptile dragged Gunner into the water, Richard, an avid hunter, immediately sprang into action.
He jumped into the waist-deep pond, grabbed the alligator, and tried to pull its jaws open. He did all this while holding a cigar in his mouth, which he never dropped.
“It was just a shock, it happened so fast,” Richard told WBBH. “Instinct just took over and adrenaline kicked in and I just went right into the water after the gator and Gunner.”
Fortunately, Richard was able to pry open the gator’s mouth before Gunner was completely crushed. The puppy immediately ran to safety upon being released.
Richard tried to extract his own hands from the animal’s mouth. They were chewed up after the dramatic encounter, but he was glad that he was able to save his beloved dog’s life.
“They’re like children to us, so there was no second thought whatsoever,” Richard said of his pet.
Gunner suffered from a little puncture wound to his stomach, but he is now doing fine after seeing a veterinarian. Richard also went to a doctor to get a tetanus shot.
The jarring incident, which happened in late October, was captured by surveillance cameras because of a partnership between the Florida Wildlife Federation (FWF) and the fStop Foundation.
Residents who live next to wild habitats take part in the “Sharing the Landscape” program by allowing the two organizations to install cameras on their land to document animals.
“We live on a shared landscape,” Meredith Budd, the regional policy director of the FWF, said. “We don’t just want to tolerate wildlife, but, rather, we want to thrive with wildlife on a shared landscape.”
The groups only learned of the incident when they got the memory card from the surveillance cameras on Richard’s land.
Despite what happened, Richard said he understands it was the gator’s home and that it was just following its instincts. He didn’t want it removed because “they’re part of nature and part of our lives.”
That’s why he decided not to report it to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. His wife, Louise, also shared the same sentiment.
“It gives us a new appreciation,” she said. “We do need to be aware they are wild animals. They’re not here for our benefit. We’re very lucky to share this space with them.”
Nevertheless, the alligator was removed from their backyard pond, according to WBBH.
Understandably, Gunner is now wary about going near the water, and Richard has learned from the experience, too. He says he will keep the puppy at least 10 ft away from the water and always on a leash.
“I would like to emphasize for people that have pets to make sure that they keep them away from the edge of the water,” the brave owner said.
This goes to show how much we’re willing to sacrifice for our beloved companions. In Richard’s case, he was ready to risk his own life for his puppy. And that is love in its purest form!
Witness the terrifying encounter in the video below.