When a Florida man named Richard Wilbanks saw an alligator pull his tiny puppy into a pond and drag the dog underwater, he sprang into action. Wilbanks heroically jumped in and pried the helpless canine from the reptile’s mouth.
The brave rescue was captured on camera, thanks Wilbanks participating in a wildlife documentation project for the Florida Wildlife Federation and the fStop Foundation, which placed cameras in Lee County residents’ backyards to observe how humans and wildlife cohabitate in a shared environment.
In the video, the puppy — a three-month-old Cavalier King Charles spaniel named Gunner — can be heard yelping as Wilbank struggles to free him in waist-deep water near the pond’s edge. Seconds later, the alligator releases Gunner, who then runs to safety.
“We were just out walking by the pond, and [he] came out of the water like a missile,” Wilbanks told CNN. “I never thought an alligator could be that fast. It was so quick. I just automatically jumped in the water.”
Wilbanks and Gunner received medical attention and are both thankfully okay, with the pup suffering a minor puncture wound. The organizations running the project were unaware of the incident until recently, when they collected memory cards from the cameras and reviewed the footage.
The retiree harbors no ill will toward the alligator who snatched Gunner and does not want the reptile removed from the pond. Instead, he now walks Gunner on a leash and keeps him at a safe distance from the pond’s edge, taking all necessary precautions to ensure that both Gunner and the alligator remain safe.