Three months ago, Richard Wilbanks and his wife adopted a Cavalier King Charles spaniel puppy. They named him Gunner and the little guy quickly became an irreplaceable part of their family.
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Recently, the 74-year-old retiree from Estero, Florida was walking with Gunner in their backyard when they suddenly got a bit too close to nature.
An alligator, ubiquitous in Florida waterways, leapt from the pond and snatched up the tiny dog in the blink of an eye. Richard felt a rush of adrenaline and responded without a moment’s hesitation, plunging into the shallow water and grabbing the gator with his bare hands.
“We were just out walking by the pond,” Richard told CNN, “and it came out of the water like a missile. I never thought an alligator could be that fast. It was so quick.”
For several agonizing seconds Richard grappled with the juvenile alligator, attempting to pry the animal’s jaws open to release his terrified dog.
Incredibly, Richard overcame the alligator and freed Gunner! He says his hands were “chewed up” pretty badly, but after getting a tetanus shot Richard’s doctor gave him a clean bill of health. Gunner was similarly unharmed, suffering only a puncture wound that was treated by his veterinarian. Richard feels extremely grateful that this situation didn’t end in tragedy and he was able to save his dog’s life.
When video of the encounter went viral, many people wondered how it was caught on camera in the first place. It turns out, Richard’s backyard is part of a partnership partnership between the Florida Wildlife Federation and the fSTOP Foundation that aims to help humans live harmoniously with wildlife in their areas.
Even after experiencing such a scary ordeal, Richard has no ill will towards alligators or other potentially dangerous wildlife. He says he understands that they live here too, and insists that humans need give wildlife their space.
Richard still plans to enjoy walking in his backyard, but from now on he’ll keep Gunner on a leash and will stay at least 10 feet away from the pond at all times. “They’re part of nature and part of our lives,” he said.
That is one tough grandpa! We love that this brush with danger didn’t sour him towards wildlife. In fact, he’s more respectful and aware of our place in the environment than ever before!
Share this story to spread his message of acceptance and respect with others.
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