LEE COUNTY, Fla. — A dog whose owner saved him from the jaws of an attacking alligator in South Florida was recently deputized.
Gunner, the 4-month-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel seen in a widely-viewed video on social media in October, is the latest recruit to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Dogs program, which encourages pet owners to be on the lookout for suspicious activity while out with their pets.
“This is a big day, OK. You are going to be a detective now,” Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said to Gunner while pinning a badge to his harness.
In October, Gunner and owner Richard Wilbanks were on a walk when the alligator jumped out of the water and snatched the small dog. Wilbanks did not think twice about jumping in to save him. In a video, he can be seen pulling an alligator’s jaws apart, freeing Gunner.
“I just wasn’t going to let him have my puppy for breakfast,” Wilbanks said.
Wilbanks suffered minor cuts and Gunner has recovered from his puncture wound.
“Crazy story. Happy to say that Gunner is here today because of Rick’s fast actions, jumping in without hesitation,” Marceno said.
The incident was caught on camera through pure coincidence. A partnership between the Florida Wildlife Federation and the fSTOP Foundation had a camera set up in Wilbanks’ yard near the pond as part of its “Sharing the Landscape” campaign. The cameras typically record bobcats or deer in an effort to show how wildlife coexist.
“Gunner’s tenacity and fight for survival proves he’s the perfect candidate as the Safety and Security Officer for Deputy Dogs!” the office said on social media.
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