Many have asked, “How’s Archie doing?” or “Ok, how’d you get Archie out the jaws of a giant hungry gator?” Allow me to address the second question first. I would love to say, “I wrestled the gator with my bare hands”, but of course that was not what happened. As previously mentioned, Archie bolted for the river, I ran behind repetitiously screaming his name, trying to avoid a muddy wet dog in the truck on our way to Jackson. Wet dogs, heat and humidity don’t mix but it’s hard to run very fast in Birkenstocks. Hearing a tell-tale splash, I conceded defeat, halted my sprint and simply walked ahead. In less than thirty seconds a terrifyingly painful yelp erupted from the river ahead. It was obvious Archie was in big trouble. This time I engaged my 6o-year-old afterburners and within seconds stood on the elevated riverbank. It was hard to comprehend what I saw. Am I dreaming or is this a ghoulish nightmare that will end as quickly as it began? Archie’s entire body was in the jaws of a giant gator! He appeared helpless, like a wet dishrag. Adrenaline and love comingled, the only sound in the otherwise eerie quietness was the buttons on my snap shirt popping open as I prepared to retrieve my dog or die trying. I jogged along the bank considering the best place to enter the water, all the while screaming at the top of my lungs at the enormous reptile. My cellphone flopped sideways in the right front pocket of my shorts awakening me from my semi-trance and bringing me, at least partially, back to my senses. I can’t jump in with my phone, besides if Archie and I both die, Jean won’t even know what happened. As my shaky left hand and right index finger tapped Jean’s number, the gator rolled and submerged, taking Archie down in the muddy river with him. Jean answered, I yelled, “Get down here as fast as you can a giant gator has Archie; I need your help!” “What?!” “Oh no!” I heard her scream and the truck door slam before she hung up. A second later Archie miraculously surfaced free from the gator’s grasp. I screamed, “Swim Archie, come on boy, swim hard!” The gator surfaced and water sprayed upward as the gator made another big snap at Archie narrowly missing. I continued screaming at the gator all the while encouraging Archie to keep swimming for shore. I could see dark blood surfacing in the muddy water from Archie’s wounds. The gator followed for about ten yards and then turned away into the current and disappeared. Jean arrived at the riverbank and we could see the weeds in the shallow water below parting as Archie approached covered in blood partially dragging his left leg. We helped him up the bank and he collapsed on the ground in front of us. Jean went for the truck. I inspected Archie’s wounds trying to determine if his chest cavity or lungs had been punctured in order to ascertain how quickly we needed a vet in order to save Archie. Terrible wounds and lots of blood but he doesn’t appear to have internal bleeding. We carefully loaded Archie into the truck. I grabbed an old T-shirt to soak up the blood, Jean googled “emergency animal hospital”. We sped the twenty minutes to the Greenwood Mississippi Animal Hospital at 80mph, hazards flashing. Archie received immediate emergency treatment from Dr. Gayla Conner and her excellent staff. X-rays showed the gator’s bite was so deep that one incisor came within a millimeter of puncturing his heart. Dr. Conner commented, “Archie is a lucky boy.” After five days in the hospital, Tuesday afternoon we picked him up and started our road trip back to Denver.
How’s Archie doing? His open chest wounds, which we irrigate and apply antibiotic ointment to twice a day are healing nicely. The bigger problem that has become more apparent with every succeeding day is his left shoulder and leg. Yesterday, we took him to a local animal hospital where they performed nerve conductivity tests. Archie has little to no feeling in his lower left leg and paw indicating moderate to severe nerve damage. His left leg, which was completely inside the gator’s mouth during the attack, is likely what kept the gator’s bite from puncturing his heart, but at this point we do not know if he will regain full use of the leg. But Archie is a fighter, so we still have good hopes for recovery. I’m sure he’s the only dog in Denver who can say, “I survived an alligator attack.” When he gets better I think I’ll buy him a T-shirt with those words and parade him, even if limping, past the other dogs at the dog park.
Archie with his new stuffed alligator.