FROSTPROOF (FOX 13) - Martin Ratliff said his neighborhood has many more animals than it does people - and he and his dog, Dixie like it that way.
But Wednesday, Dixie barked up the wrong tree.
"If she finds an animal out here, she will chase it," Ratliff said. "We heard her growling a little bit, but the raccoon was making a terrible noise. It sounded like a little kid screaming."
Ratliff came outside to find Dixie and a raccoon, mano a mano. He ran in, grabbed his shotgun, and waited for the two animals to separate, however briefly.
"It drug the raccoon until the body stretched out, away from Dixie, that was my chance. I took the gun barrel, stuck it to its belly and shot it," he recalled.
Deputies brought the animal for testing and found it was positive for rabies - the third of the year in Polk County.
"It's real scary," said Ratliff. "We have grandkids here, they walk around and find animal, my granddaughter would love to pet it like it's a cat."
It's a good thing he immediately brought Dixie for a booster, which saved her life. All she had was a bit of a shoulder wound and a bad memory.
"She was pretty shook up by it and laid around the house and didn't want to do anything like she was scared," Ratliff said.
Unfortunately for Dixie and Martin, the threat of a wild animal or two will never go away where they live.
"Don't feed your animals outside, don't let anything like old garbage sit around," said Ratliff
The Polk County Sheriff's Office reminds that foxes are most likely to have rabies. Fox and raccoon should not be approached, and any pets that have been exposed to rabies should be reported to animal control right away. That number is 863-577-1762.