ESTERO, Fla. - A tiny puppy whose owner rescued him from an alligator's jaws is now a "deputy dog" for a Florida sheriff's office.
Richard Wilbanks was walking with his 4-month-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Gunner when an alligator jumped out of a pond and snatched the tiny dog, dragging him underwater.
Without hesitation, Wilbanks jumped into the water and grabbed the gator, then pried open its jaws to free his pet -- all while keeping his cigar in his mouth.
"I guess I had clamped down on that cigar just like that alligator clamped down on Gunner," Wilbanks joked, adding, "I just wasn't going to let him have my puppy for breakfast."
He said he'd only had the puppy for a week when the incident happened.
"It was just a reaction. Even though I had only had Gunner a short time, you just look at this face, those eyes, and ears... I was already in love with him, so attached to him, that I just reacted and went in after him," Wilbanks said.
The Lee County Sheriff's Office honored Gunner for his "tenacity and fight for survival" by naming him their "safety and security officer for Deputy Dogs." The sheriff says the pup will work with the agency to educate children about safety.
It's not the first time a high-profile pup has been deputized by the sheriff's office. Chance, a dog that was found abused and abandoned with his snout taped shut, was adopted by Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno.