TAMPA, Fla. - A game of catch went horribly wrong when a Tampa man's black lab chased a ball into a pond and into the mouth of an alligator.
Blair Haynes said the trip to Lake Park, with his 95-pound black lab, George, was like any other.
"We come here almost every day for the past two years," Haynes told FOX 13 News. "Once we get out of the woodsy area, I always throw the ball into this pond."
As George was getting out of the water, Haynes says an alligator, possibly between 6 and 9 feet long, grabbed him from behind and pulled him under for a few seconds.
For Haynes, it felt like a lifetime.
"I thought, I just lost my dog, and I thought about going in to get him," Haynes said. "All of a sudden he came up and was really motoring for the shore."
But George is a fighter and a survivor, and used everything he had to escape. He walked away with some stitches, but is expected to recover.
"He got about 20 stitches," Haines said. "And he has some minor cuts on the other side."
The heart-stopping experience left Haynes with a warning for others: "Follow the rules, keep a leash on your dog in the park. That's the only way they're guaranteed to be safe."
It could be the difference between life and death.
Hillsborough County officials said that Lake Park does have a variety of wildlife in the area, including gators. They encourage parents to keep an eye on their children and pet owners to keep their dogs on a leash.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is planning to send a trapper out to look for the alligator Thursday morning.