Florida grandfather wrestles gator to save pet dog

The Sideshow

A 66-year-old retired corporate lawyer in Florida jumped on top of a 7-foot alligator  all in an attempt to save his "best friend," a small terrier dog named Bounce.

"I just knew that my best friend was going to be dead," Steve Gustafson told the Orlando Sentinel. "And I took off."

The grandfather was hanging out in his backyard of his home at The Villages, a retirement community near Orlando, while the 9-year-old West Highland terrier wandered close to the shore of a nearby pond.

That's when Gustafson said he heard Bounce yelp and saw the alligator carrying his dog away in its mouth.

"For whatever reason, I don't know, I just yelled, 'you're not going to get her!' and just leaped on the gator…just like you do some silly belly flop in a pool," Gustafson told the paper. "The only difference was I landed on top of a gator."

But the rescue didn't come without a fight. The 130-pound gator reportedly tried to pin Gustafson to the bottom of the 3-foot-deep pond before he was able to outmaneuver it, finally setting Bounce free.

Gustafson said he then "tossed" the gator back into the pond and raced for the shore. Both Bounce and Gustafson sustained minor injuries, receiving medical attention and a few stitches.

His neighbors responded by giving Gustafson a superhero cape and alligator belt buckle.

Still, they both came out far ahead of the unlucky gator, who was captured and killed by a local trapper.

"It's like being in a really bad car accident and walking away from it," Gustafson said. "If I hesitated I would have lost my best friend."

Needless to say, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission official Patrick Delaney said Gustafson's story is not one others should try to emulate.

"They're fast, and they can be dangerous," Delaney said. "So, I would give them a healthy respect."

Wildlife officials said alligator populations thrive during this time of year, with high temperatures and an ample food supply. Authorities in Louisiana extended the normal window for alligator hunting season this year to October 5th because of the large numbers.

In December, a 70 long and 30 foot wide "Gator in the Bay" art project will be unveiled in Miami, with a giant gator head made of all recycled material will float in the water as part of an effort to raise awareness for conservation efforts in the Florida Everglades.