A grandfather who lives in a Florida retirement community wasted no time in going after an alligator that dragged off his West Highland White Terrier last week.
Steve Gustafson, 66, told the Orlando Sentinel yesterday, “I just knew that my best friend was going to be dead. And I took off.”
Gustafson was doing yard work outside his house when Bounce, his 9-year-old, 13-pound Westie, ventured too close to a 7-foot-long, 130-pound alligator in a nearby pond.
Bounce yelped as the gator grabbed her shoulder and collar, and started to swim off with her in its mouth.
“For whatever reason, I don’t know, I just yelled, ‘You’re not going to get her!’ and just leaped on the gator…just like you do some silly belly flop in a pool,” Gustafson told the Sentinel. “The only difference was I landed on top of a gator.”
He got ahold of the alligator’s back leg and managed to submerge its head into the pond. Although the gator spun around and tried to dunk them in the water, Gustafson managed to push it near the shore, where it dropped Bounce, and then shove it back into the water.
Thanks to Gustafson’s quick actions, Bounce only suffered some tears in her skin – and a bent rabies tag. Gustafson had a minor bite wound on his hand where the gator had snapped at him. After being treated and stitched up, both are doing fine.
In May 2011, another elderly man, Gary Murphy, also saved his Westie from a gator in Palm City, Fla. Murphy pummeled the reptile with one of his loafers.
Although many pet parents might be likely to take the same actions as Gustafson and Murphy if their beloved dogs were in danger, wildlife experts advise against confronting alligators since it can have deadly consequences.
To prevent an alligator from attacking your dog, “A Guide to Living With Alligators,” by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), offers this advice: “Dogs and cats are similar in size to the natural prey of alligators. Don’t allow pets to swim, exercise or drink in or near waters that may contain alligators. Dogs often attract an alligator’s interest, so do not swim with your dog.”
If you live in Florida and have a problem with a lurking alligator, call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC.
The gator that snatched Bounce was later trapped and killed. Gustafson told the Sentinel he will display the reptile’s skin on his patio – and from now on, keep a much closer eye on his pooch.