Beware those Florida gators!

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While I was resting at Karina’s feet this morning, she yelled out “OMG!” She was on her first cup of coffee and reading the Sunday papers when a headline jumped out at her: “Alligator nearly bites off woman’s hand.”

Karina, company founder, proceeded to read details of the alligator’s attack to the room at large - which was, of course, empty except for me and her. It seems that a good citizen in Fort Lauderdale lost her grip on an empty can of Mountain Dew and it landed in the murky waters of the Everglades. Not wanting to further sully nature with trash, the 49-year-old woman dutifully reached down to pluck the can out of the water when a six-and-a-half-foot long gator rose to the surface and grabbed her hand.

Two witnesses grabbed her legs and managed to free her hand from the gator’s jaws. A fire rescue helicopter arrived and found the woman “with her right hand ‘almost fully amputated’ and losing consciousness.” The woman is now in critical condition at the Broward Health North Trauma Center. As for the gator, a trapper found him and the animal was euthanized.

So, you’re asking yourself, why am I telling you about this news story and what in the world does it have to do with Island Pet Sitters? Well it just so happens that Karina was taking care of two Golden Retrievers not long ago when she received an email from from a neighbor.

The neighbor warned Karina that he’d seen a gator swimming in the lake in front of their respective houses on a recent night and again the next morning. He wanted to make sure that we were extra careful when playing fetch in the back yard so the very old and arthritic golden wouldn’t get a “nip on the nose” from the approximately four-foot long gator. Karina passed the warning on to the dogs’ owners when they returned home from their trip.

As of this writing the gator has not been spotted again. Oops! I stand corrected - this just came in. One of our pet sitters just sent Karina a photo of a gator swimming just off shore in front of the house in which the Goldens reside! The sitter, Linda, was exercising the dogs in the back yard.

Well there you have it! The moral of the story: alligators are a fact of life in Florida and one needs to be constantly aware of the danger they pose. They lurk in shallow waters and like to sun themselves on grassy banks. In our community it is not unusual to find an alligator sunning itself while stretched out next to a pool cage! And please, please, please understand that gators are not as easy to spot as you’d think. They do not wear orange like the University of Florida’s “Gators” sports teams.

But I can say this: Karina is really good at spotting gators. She’s done lots of kayaking on the Cypress Waterway and without fail sees at least 2 of these creatures on every outing. Her record so far this year: 12 spotted on one 45-minute paddle! Then there were the days of eight, and too many days of nine and ten. Her nerves were so shocked by then that she took a timeout from kayaking until mating season was over.

But for weeks she could hear the gators’ mating calls at night for weeks on end. It sent shivers up and down her spine because it sounded like hundreds of gators were out there in the dark at the 2,400 acre Isles of Collier Preserve which backs up Rookery Bay. More recent outings have featured far fewer sightings; Karina says that one or two gators is acceptable, but no more than five will be tolerated.

So please, dear pet owners, do not let your cats out and be careful when letting Spot roam the yard while you wash your car. Keep your dogs on a leash and your cats indoors at all times.

May all of our existing and new clients have a safe rest of the steamy southwest Florida summer!

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