A Florida man has become the hero of dog lovers everywhere, for wrestling a puppy out of the jaws of a gator – and certain death.
Richard Wilbanks and his three-month-old King Charles spaniel Gunner were walking alongside the water near Fort Myers in the notorious gator state when the animal sprung out of the pond, grabbing Gunner in its jaws.
“It came out of the water like a missile”, Mr Wilbanks, 74, told CNN.
Without a second thought, he leapt into the water after it, thrusting his hands into the gator’s mouth and prying open its powerful jaws to allow Gunner to escape.
And he did it all without losing the cigar in his mouth.
“I never thought an alligator could be that fast. It was so quick. I just automatically jumped into the water,” he said.
The gator gnashed against Mr Wilbank’s hands, but the only medical attention he required was a tetanus shot.
Gunner had a minor puncture wound, but is well on the mend after a trip to the vets.
The miraculous tale would almost be unbelievable if it weren’t captured on film, by an animal observation camera by the Florida Wildlife Federation.
The footage is now making its way around the globe.
Mr Wilbanks insists he and Gunner don’t want the alligator removed or killed – “they’re part of nature and part of our lives” – but he has resolved to keep Gunner on a lead and away from the water, on future walks.