77-year-old Olympic weightlifter pries alligator mouth open to save his dog

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A man from Moore Haven jumped on an alligator’s back, prying the animal’s mouth wide open to save his dog’s life.

Art Auwaerter’s dog, Rodger, was saved thanks to his owner’s bravery and strength.

Once Auwaerter freed his dog from the jaws of death along a section of the river, he says the gator came after him.

Auwaerter says the gator was also thrashing and trying to pull him under the water. However, Rodger and Auwaerter are all healed up and telling their story as a warning to others.

Don’t mess with Auwaerter, even if you’re an apex predator.

“I’m not going to ever forget it,” said Auwaerter.

Starting the day with some coffee like any other before taking Rodger out.

Rodger the dog. CREDIT: WINK News

“He went in the river,” said Auwaerter. “A few seconds later, I see a big splash. Oh my God, I know what’s happening.”

Ended with a massive gator inviting Rodger the dog over for breakfast.

“He’s gonna kill him. And I could not let that happen. So I ran down the bank. You don’t think in those situations, you just act,” said Auwaerter. If your kid was being attacked, you would not stop to think about it, you would do whatever you had to do to save him.”

But there is something important to know about Auwaerter.

“I still remember how my fingers fit in the gaps of his teeth. They have gaps between their teeth, and my fingers fit perfectly in there,” said Auwaerter.

He is a 77-year-old Olympic weightlifter. That makes him the oldest in Florida, and he still competes regularly. The gator was unaware that Auwaerter was in charge of these parts.

“Terry, 911, call 911. I was just wrestling an alligator. She said, ‘What?!'” Auwaerter said.

The scars are staying, but the alligator is not. He says the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission came out and put it down.

“I wish they would have relocated him,” said Auwaerter. “but I guess they have to shoot them if they attack the person. I attacked him first. I mean, of course, he shouldn’t have attacked my dog.”

Auwaerter says the doctor he saw at the emergency room told if the gator’s bite was just two inches away, it could have cut his artery and killed him.

As for Rodger the dog, he used to love swimming in the river, but now the 12-year-old Italian mastiff steers clear of it.

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