74-Year-Old Florida Woman Saves Dog from Alligator: 'I Did the Only Thing I Could Do'

Suzan Marciano rescued her golden retriever mix from an alligator when the wild animal grabbed the pet at Burt Aaronson Park in Boca Raton

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A Florida woman heroically saved her dog when an alligator attacked it near Boca Raton.

While Suzan Marciano and her golden retriever mix, Nalu, are safe and healthy now, they had a frightening encounter in late August, when Marciano, 74, took Nalu off leash so she could play in the water during a walk at Burt Aaronson Park, The Palm Beach Post reports.

Marciano, 74, had been playing fetch with her pet when she spotted a dark shape in the lake where Nalu was wading. Upon closer inspection, she realized the shadow lurking below was a 6-foot alligator. At the moment, "my heart dropped," she told the Post.

Shortly after Mardiano spotted the gator, the large reptile attacked her dog. Mardiano immediately fought back until Nalu was freed from the alligator's jaws.

"I wasn't thinking," she said, adding, "I did the only thing I could do. I came down on the alligator with all my weight."

Although Marciano was able to save her pet from the alligator, she didn't escape unscathed — the animal bit her hand, causing a large puncture in her palm. But Marciano told the Post she was "in such shock" that she "didn't feel any pain."

After fleeing the water with her dog, Marciano went to the hospital at the urging of a friend, who told her, "You have to do something. You need a tetanus shot and you need the injury looked at."

"All I could think was, 'I want to get home.' I was in such a terrible state that I wasn't thinking straight," Marciano recalled.

Marciano received five stitches at the hospital for her hand injury. Nalu suffered puncture wounds to both her stomach and thigh and had to undergo two hours of surgery at an animal emergency clinic after the attack.

Now, both dog and owner are healing from their harrowing ordeal. After the attack, Nalu is more subdued, Marciano said, and the two take shorter walks around her neighborhood. Several weeks after the incident, Nalu and Marciano returned to Burt Aaronson Park.

When officers from Florida's Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) inspected the lake, they were unable to find any alligators in the water, the Post reported.

Alligator attacks have been on the rise in Florida in recent years, with The Tampa Bay Times reporting in 2018 that the increase in population and development in the state has correlated with a higher number of alligator attacks.

The latest data available from the FWC stated that "413 unprovoked bite incidents" have occurred in the state between 1948 and 2019, 25 of which were fatal to the humans involved.

Still, despite the rise in alligator attacks, the risk remains relatively low for the average citizen. The FWC noted in the same report that the "likelihood of a Florida resident being seriously injured during an unprovoked alligator incident in Florida is roughly only one in 3.1 million."

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