Richard Wilbanks, 74, told Inside Edition that he was having a cigar as he and and his 3-month-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Gunner enjoyed a nice walk when a small gator came out of nowhere and attacked his pup as they walked passed a pond.
"It just shot out of the water like a missile and grabbed Gunner and was right back in the water with him," he told Inside Edition. "It was just instinct and reaction. I didn't have time to think, which was probably a good thing, I was just struggling to get the gator to the bank and then to get its mouth open."
As the gator thrashed Gunner around in the water, Wilbanks did everything he could to save his puppy. All the while, he never dropped his cigar.
"That's the surprising thing when I saw the video. I guess my mouth just clamped down on it," he said.
Wilbanks told CNN his hands were "chewed up" and that his doctor gave him a tetanus shot just to be safe. Gunner made it out with one puncture wound in his belly and is healing after a trip to the veterinarian's office.
"Gunner is just fine. He came home, he was a little timid the first few days but he's been fine ever since," he told Inside Edition.
The struggle was caught on camera by two conservation groups who set up a camera in the area, the Florida Wildlife Federation and F-Stop Foundation.
“We call it the sharing the landscape project to elevate that idea that we need to coexist and live alongside wildlife,” Meredith Budd of the Florida Wildlife Foundation told Inside Edition.
“I knew he was a brave man because he married me,” Wilbanks' wife, Louise, joked with Inside Edition. "He sure showed me a whole lot, saving our puppy."