66-Year-Old Grandfather Belly-Flops Into Pond, Wrestles 130-Pound Alligator, Saves His Beloved Dog

When Steve Gustafson's West Highland Terrier was carried off by an alligator, he didn't hesitate to fight back.

66-year-old Steve Gustafson says he had no other choice but to jump in after the alligator who made off with his dog, Bounce. (Photo: Screengrab from the Orlando Sentinel)

Sep 21, 2012

While we are glad that New York City is taking measures to help prevent animal cruelty, it can be disheartening to think that an animal abuser registry, similar to the one sex offenders are required to file with, is even necessary. The animal abuser registry bill comes on the heels of a case involving a man who threw a dog from a third-story window, killing it. We wish these sort of things just never happened.

But for every inhumane pet owner, there’s a pet guardian like Steve Gustafson, who wrestled an alligator to save his dog.

Yes, you read that correctly: 66-year-old Gustafson, a Lake County, Florida, grandfather, didn’t hesitate for a moment when a 130-pound alligator attempted to make a meal of his West Highland Terrier named Bounce—he jumped right into the water to rescue the dog, risking life and limb for his canine companion. It is the very definition of love and devotion.

Gustafson recalls hearing a distressed yelp and then looking to find, to his horror, Bounce being carried off by a seven-foot alligator. He says he “didn’t think twice” about belly flopping into the shallow water, landing on the alligator, and wresting Bounce free from its jaws. The devoted dog guardian says that at one point he, Bounce, and the alligator were all under water, but all Gustafson could think was that his “main objective was to get the dog to the surface for air.” Nevermind that he had an alligator between his legs!

Gustafson and Bounce escaped the ordeal with only minor injuries...and an outrageous story to tell the grandkids. Gustafson’s dedication to remaining active by running and playing softball probably came in handy when he confronted the alligator, allowing him to react quickly and effectively.

Patrick Delaney of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says that alligator attacks like this are not common, but warns that neither are they rare.

While some people might call Gustafson’s actions irrational, he begs to differ, saying that he simply had no other choice. “I just knew that my best friend was going to be dead,” explains Gustafson, and that was enough to send him into the water after Bounce.

We’re sure that Bounce is grateful to be alive, and it’s heartwarming to hear of a dog owner going to such lengths for his furry friend. We’re happy to know that Gustafson and Bounce will have many more years together thanks to the human’s courageous act.

What lengths would you go to to save a beloved pet? Would you risk your life by wrestling an alligator?

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