When it came to saving his dog’s life, 74-year-old Richard Wilbanks didn’t hesitate. His three-month-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Gunner was trapped between the jaws of an alligator, but the puppy is now alive and safe thanks to his dad’s fast and fearless actions. The Florida man says the attack happened quickly, and his story is now a cautionary tale for every pet owner out there.
Wilbanks and his wife fell in love with Florida wildlife as soon as they moved to the area four years ago. They chose their house on the privacy of a dead-end street partly because of its proximity to a natural environment. Wilbanks has seen all kinds of animals including deer, turkey, and bobcats, and he’s always known that the nearby pond is the perfect environment for alligators. That knowledge, however, didn’t prepare him for how sneaky and fast those alligators can really be.
Gunner and his devoted dad were out walking near the pond when the attack happened. Wilbanks said he had no idea the gator was there until it already had the puppy between its teeth. The four-foot gator sprang about three feet out of the water to grab Gunner.
Without thinking, Wilbanks jumped into the water, his cigar still in his mouth, and grabbed the gator by the jaws. With a lot of effort and muscle, he managed to pry the teeth far enough apart to allow Gunner to wiggle out and make it to shore. With the puppy safe, Wilbanks then had to extract his own hands from the alligator’s mouth.
By the time the pair made it back to their house, they were both shaken and bleeding. Wilbanks did a quick repair to his battered hands and then rushed Gunner to the emergency vet. Thankfully, the exam showed that while Gunner had a puncture wound and some water in his lungs, he had no internal injuries. He stayed at the vet for a few days to recover, but he’s now safely back at home.
The attack on Gunner and the heroic rescue were captured on video thanks to wildlife cameras that had been set up by Florida Wildlife Federation and the fstop Foundation. And while Wilbanks said he and Gunner will stay far away from the pond from now on, he doesn’t blame the gator. The gator in question is still out in the pond, and Wilbanks hopes he stays there. He respects the wildlife around him and hopes other people learn from his story.
h/t: USA Today