Join Fox News for access to this content

Plus special access to select articles and other premium content with your account – free of charge.

Please enter a valid email address.

By entering your email and pushing continue, you are agreeing to Fox News’ Terms of Use and Privacy Policy, which includes our Notice of Financial Incentive. To access the content, check your email and follow the instructions provided.

Having trouble? Click here.

A strong body and sharp mind gave a 77-year-old Florida man the ability to save his faithful furry companion from the jaws of an alligator — the two of them escaping with injuries, but living to tell the story as gator mating season approaches and standoffs between humans and gators hit recent headlines.

“I couldn’t watch that creature kill my dog,” Art Auwaerter of Moore Haven, Florida, told Fox News Digital. 

“I had no choice. I had to do something.”

FLORIDA GOLFER PHOTOGRAPHS ALLIGATOR WITH GIANT TURTLE LOCKED IN ITS JAWS: ‘NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THIS’

“I jumped on his back, right behind his head, and I grabbed his upper jaws and pulled up to get him to let Rodger go,” Auwaerter said.

Auwaerter lives a mostly peaceful life on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River, along with his wife, Terry, and his dog Rodger, a fierce-looking 100-lb. black Italian mastiff.

“He loves the water,” Auwaerter said. “When we go outside, he goes right for the river. And most of the time, I’d go in with him.”

But one day last summer, Auwaerter decided to sit down and take it easy while Rodger went for a swim.

“I made a big mistake,” Auwaerter said. 

STARTLING VIDEO SHOWS FLORIDA ALLIGATOR LUNGING AT COUPLE RIDING IN GOLF CART

“I sat down in the middle of the backyard in the lawn chair, instead of walking over to the river bank with him. He went onto the bank, which is about six or seven feet above the water level. So when you go down the bank, you lose sight of whoever’s going down there.” 

dog rescued from alligator

A few seconds later, Auewaerter said he heard a big splash.

“I knew immediately what was going on because there’s only one thing that could cause that big, big splash – and that’s a big alligator attacking him,” he said.

‘ALLIGATOR’ FLOATING IN ARIZONA POND PROMPTS 911 CALLS FROM CONCERNED LOCALS

“So, I ran over to the bank and sure enough, it’s a big alligator.”

Auwaerter said that’s when his instincts kicked in.

weightlifter and dog smiling

“I didn’t even think about it,” he said. “You just do what you have to do and that’s what I did.”

A competitive Olympic weightlifter since he was 16, Auwaerter had the strength to back up what his instincts told him to do. 

HUGE 3-LEGGED ALLIGATOR WEIGHING 1.2K POUNDS WRANGLED IN TEXAS NEIGHBORHOOD

Olympic is a class of weightlifting in which athletes lift a bar loaded with weights from the floor to over their head — and the goal is to lift the most weight possible.

“I’ve been doing it for a long time, and I think it makes you as strong as you can possibly be,” Auwaerter said. 

77-year-old weightlifter

Without hesitation, Auwaerter grabbed onto the jaws of what Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission agents later called a 7-foot alligator — and tried to stun him into letting go of his dog.

“And he did immediately,” Auwaerter said. “I’m sure the alligator never had anybody do that before, so he let Rodger go immediately.”

NORTH CAROLINA MAN STARTLED BY 8-FOOT-LONG ALLIGATOR HIDING IN ATTIC DURING HOME INSPECTION

But then the gator turned his attention to Auwaerter. 

“I had my hands in his mouth and as far as he knows, I’m attacking him,” he said. 

alligator bite on dog's bike

“I remember my fingers fit perfectly in the gaps between his teeth. I could feel his teeth and suddenly he shook really violently and rolled, and he threw me off into the water, which was about two feet deep,” Auwaerter recalled.

ALLIGATOR FOUND IN LOUISIANA HOME REPORTEDLY SNEAKED IN THROUGH DOG DOOR: ‘I JUMPED BACK’

Auwaerter said he got up as fast as he could and grabbed Rodger to get him to safety, but then the alligator grabbed Auwaerter.

“He chomped down on my left thigh,” Auewaerter said. 

Alligator bite healing

“So I reached down to try to get him off my leg, and he let me go. I said, ‘Wow, I’m free.’ I grabbed Rodger, I threw him over the bank and I climbed up the bank and we both got away.” 

Auwaerter and Rodger each sustained some injuries from the gator attack.

FLORIDA WOMAN’S DOORBELL CAMERA CAPTURES MOMENT ALLIGATOR APPROACHES HER FRONT PORCH

“He got Rodger pretty good,” Auwaerter said. “He cut him up pretty bad and I had a big gash in my leg, which was wide open. It looked terrible, but it wasn’t bleeding.”

“I knew immediately what was going on because there’s only one thing that could cause that big, big splash.”

— Art Auewaerter

Auwaerter said that he limped over to his house and yelled to his wife to call 9-1-1. 

“It was amazing how quick everybody came, between the local police and the EMTs and the Florida Fish and Wildlife officers,” Auwaerter said.

FLORIDA ALLIGATOR SEEMINGLY EATS SMALLER ALLIGATOR IN RARE WILDLIFE ENCOUNTER: ‘IT’S CRAZY’

Auwaerter was taken by ambulance to the emergency room, where he spent several hours having his wound cleaned and stapled shut. 

Rodger was tended to at home by Terry Auwaerter. 

weightlifter and his dog

They both have the scars to prove it.

Now, Auwaerter said, Rodger has a healthy respect for what could be lurking in the water near his house. 

“I wouldn’t say he is afraid of it, but he does not want to go in the river,” he said. 

FLORIDA MAN BITTEN BY 7.5-FOOT ALLIGATOR WHILE SNORKELING IN WATER DESIGNATED FOR SWIMMING: ‘USE CAUTION’.”

Auwaerter said the alligator had to be put down, since it attacked a human.

Alligators live in all 67 counties in Florida and can be found in practically all fresh and brackish water bodies and occasionally in salt water, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). 

Although exact population figures are unknown, Florida has a healthy and stable population of over one million alligators of every size.

Anyone who encounters an alligator that is believed to pose a threat to people, pets or property should call the FWC’s Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 1‐866‐FWC‐GATOR (392‐4286). 

“I could feel his teeth and suddenly he shook really violently and rolled.”

— Art Auwaerter

The FWC’s Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program (SNAP) uses contracted nuisance alligator trappers throughout the state to remove alligators 4 feet in length or greater that are believed to pose a threat.

On July 31, 2023, the FWC received a report of an alligator bite of an adult man near a private residence in Glades County. The man was bitten while rescuing his dog from the alligator, Arielle Callender, the public information director, South Region of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, confirmed to Fox News Digital.  

FLORIDA MAN WHO LOST ARM IN ALLIGATOR ATTACK BEHIND A BAR NOW IN ‘FAIR’ CONDITION, HOSPITAL CONFIRMS

Both the man — Auwaerter— and the dog sustained non-life-threatening injuries.

“The alligator was harvested and transferred to a processing facility,” Callender said. 

Whether or not an alligator is killed depends on the circumstances of the incident, she added. Alligators become more visible and active during spring and summer. 

Florida weightlifter rescues dog

“When temperatures rise, their metabolism increases, and they increase activity levels,” Callender said.

As for Auwaerter, he plans to continue his training. “I’m competing at least two or three times a year,” he said. 

“In about four weeks is a big national championship in Baton Rouge. Hundreds and hundreds of weight lifters are coming from all over the country to compete. In my age group, which is 75-79, there are 19 of us.”

He believes weightlifting not only helped save his dog — but also is the key to success and longevity.

“It gives you confidence that you can do things and that you can do anything,” Auwaerter said. 

“And, you know, I would’ve done the same thing probably anyway, but I may not have been successful if I didn’t do weightlifting. And for my age, I’m strong and fit.”

For more Lifestyle articles, visit www.foxnews.com/lifestyle.

Share.

Leave A Reply

© 2024 Time Bulletin. All Rights Reserved.