A 72-year-old man has told how he wrestled with an alligator to save his pet dog from certain death.
Gary Murphy leapt on to the back of the six ft-long beast in a desperate attempt to save his pet West Highland terrier named Doogie.
He threw himself on the to back of the alligator and began punching him on the head to force the gator to release the terrified dog from its jaws.
After a few blows to the head the gator released its prey and slid back into the water in Palm City, Florida.
Mr Murphy said: 'I hit the back of that gator. It was like jumping on a pile of rocks.
'But when I did, I caught him right behind the head, his mouth opened and Doogie took off and the gator turned around and went under the boat and out he went.'
He added: 'I wasn't trying to be a hero. I just wanted my dog back.'
Mr Murphy found his dog shaking with fear and bleeding heavily from several deep gouges on his body caused by the gator's razor sharp teeth.
He was rushed to a local veterinarian where he was treated for lung injuries and liver damage as well as the deep gouges.
The unplanned gator wrestling bout took place as Mr Murphy worked on his father-in-law's boat near marshland on the Port St Lucie River in Palm City, about 80 miles from Miami.
The retired construction worker said he looked up to see his beloved pet clamped between the alligator's jaws.
Mr Murphy said: 'I'm right here, and I hear a yelp.
'I look down. The gator's right here with Doogie in his mouth.
'He just had him in his mouth and was dragging him back.'
To reach his pet in time Mr Murphy said he had to leap over a foot high rope barrier.
Mr Murphy said his wife called him "nuts" for wrestling with the alligator, but he said:"If your kid was in the water with its head in a gator's mouth, what would you do?"
Veterinarian Andrea Pace said Doogie will survive his injuries.
She said: 'He's really lucky. He had some injuries in his lungs.
'We took X-rays and he has some other, some problems on the liver but he should be able to make it."
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission warned that as it is alligator mating season, making the reptiles more active, pet owners should keep their animals on a leash, especially around water.
On average there are seven attacks on humans by alligators each year in Florida but the number of dogs killed by the reptiles is put at over 20.
Mr Murphy said he plans to put up an electric fence around his property to deter any other alligators.