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Cigar-smoking Florida hero describes courageously wresting his puppy from jaws of an alligator

Image source: Video screenshot

The courageous Florida dog owner who rescued his puppy from the jaws of an alligator said he didn't think much about it and acted on instinct when he dove underwater after his dog.

Retiree Richard Wilbanks, 74, and his Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Gunner, appeared on Fox News Monday for an interview about the dramatic rescue, which was captured on video and went viral over the weekend.

"We were just out for a Sunday morning stroll, and walking down by the edge of the pond," Wilbanks recounted to Fox News' Sandra Smith. "All of the sudden an alligator just came out from under the water and grabbed little gunner and had him back in the water and was swimming off with him."

"I just jumped in and got ahold of the alligator and drug [sic] him up to the bank and pried his jaws open and got him out," Wilbanks said.


Cameras owned by the Florida Wildlife Federation filmed the incident, which took place just south of Fort Myers, Florida. Wilbanks was walking with Gunner by a pond when suddenly an alligator snatched the poor dog and dragged him underwater.

Wilbanks, who was smoking a cigar, jumped right in after his puppy and seized the alligator, fighting it for his dog's life.

"I didn't have a lot of time to think," Wilbanks told Fox News. "The instinct of saving Gunner because he's such a wonderful little puppy. I just wasn't gonna let that alligator have him."

Wilbanks managed to free Gunner from the gator's grasp, but his hands were chewed up in the process.

"I had a few little bunch of wounds on my hands," Wilbanks said. "After I got Gunner out of the alligator's mouth I had my hands stuck in there. I had to work them out."

The dog suffered a puncture wound and was in shock when Wilbanks, covered in his own blood, carried him home and surprised his wife. They rushed Gunner to the vet and Wilbanks went to the hospital for treatment.

Gunner has made a full recovery since the attack.

"He's such an amazing dog," Wilbanks told Fox News.

The cameras that caught the alligator attack and ensuing rescue were set up by the Florida Wildlife Federation and the fStop Foundation, KHOU-TV reports. Their purpose is to capture images of wildlife for people to appreciate as part of the "Share the Landscape" campaign.

"I would like to emphasize for people that have pets is to make sure that they keep them away from the edge of the water," Florida Wildlife Federation's Meredith Budd said.

Wilbanks told KHOU-TV that he's keeping Gunner away from the water now and always on a leash.

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