PINOPOLIS, S.C. Dogs don't usually survive alligator attacks especially when the reptile is three times the canine's size.
But Cooper, a 5-year-old golden retriever, is an exception. The spirited dog fought off a 14-foot, 700-pound alligator in a Lake Moultrie canal last month and lived to howl about it.
"I thought he was dead," said 14-year-old Chase Kierspe of the family pet. "The alligator was huge. I didn't think he could fight it. He fights me, but that's all."
Cooper escaped from the backyard for a swim across the canal and apparently attracted the gator. Chase was cutting the grass when he saw the alligator spying his pet. He threw a cup and a lawn chair at the gator, but it didn't budge.
Then Cooper leaped and the gator followed. Chase ran and screamed for help.
After it was all over, Cooper had lost a few teeth and had flesh and muscle torn from a front leg and chunks of skin missing from both haunches. The gator suffered bites to its snout.
"I never heard of a dog getting away from an alligator in the water," said Tom Kierspe, Chase's dad. "You always hear that they grab them, go under and do the 'death roll.'"
The state doesn't keep records of alligator size, but this was "one of the largest if not the largest" the Department of Natural Resources has seen in some time, said Walt Rhodes of the wildlife agency.
The gator's head and hide sit in Kierspe's freezer. He has contacted local museums and parks about getting it mounted and is considering applying to get it certified as a state record.
As for Cooper, Kierspe said, "we changed his name to 'Lucky.'"