LEESBURG — A local 4-year-old Goldendoodle is home safe after being rescued from alligator-infested waters last week by the Lake County Sheriff Deputies and Lake County Animal Control.
What started as a normal Tuesday night for Sarah Bates ended in a four-hour chase to catch her dog Maggie.
“The Lake County Sheriff and Lake County Animal Control officers and my wonderful neighbors went above and beyond,” said Sarah Bates, Maggie’s owner. “I am truly grateful and humbled by this experience.”
Things to do:Back to School events dominate the local landscape
To dine:Grab a salad at the renewed Deli Llama Café in Tavares
Vote today:Vote now to pick winners in the 2022 Reader’s Choice Awards
Maggie’s Great Escape
Bates had just finished a regular workday when she walked her two dogs in the backyard.
Her dog, Maggie, has always been a hunter, hunting lizards and rabbits, and before she knew it, her dog climbed through her five-foot fence into her neighbor’s yard to chase an animal she found. had seen.
“As soon as I saw her look at me, it was like she said, ‘I’m going to jump over this fence,’ and that’s exactly what she did,” she said. “So I shot on the run. She’s done this before, so I was just hoping to run to the next yard, but whatever she was chasing, she’d get.”
Maggie then jumped over the neighbor’s fence, but she didn’t stop there. She sprinted down the road through five neighbors’ properties as Bates ran barefoot down the street in her pajamas calling out to her.
When Bates realized she couldn’t catch Maggie alone, she grabbed her phone, jumped in her jeep, and called friends and neighbors to help. Just when they saw Maggie in one of her neighbors driveways, Maggie turned and jumped into a small wooded pond.
“Out of breath and overheated, I called 911. I gave the dispatcher all the information and she said she would have someone come. Less than five minutes later, we met Deputy Sheriff (Steven) Melendes of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office,” she said.
‘It was heroic’
At that time, Bates had friends on each side of the acre pond that was overgrown with thick willows, trees, and shrubs trying to persuade Maggie. The owner of the property told Bates that he had just mowed the backyard five days ago and that the water was empty, but now there was six feet of water with two alligators in the pond.
“Everyone could hear her, but no one could see her because the brush was so thick and she couldn’t see us because the brush was so thick,” she said.
They called out for extra help, and Deputy Sheriff Daniel Roman and Animal Control Officer Holly Scott came to help. The agents, Scott, and one of Bates’ neighbors, Rex Rutledge, went into the pond to rescue Maggie.
Rutledge went hip-deep into the water with a flashlight to keep the two nearby alligators, one at least five feet long, in the spotlight.
“I’m more than humbled because – and everyone agrees – it was very brave of them to go in. And I’m not afraid of alligators, and I’m not afraid of snakes, but I’m afraid of my dog,” Bates said.
At one point, Melendez lay with her chest high in the water, trying to scoop Maggie while Bates and her six neighbors watched.
“Honestly, it was heroic. Knowing there was danger from at least two alligators, a barking dog nearby, potential snakes and whatever else in that swamp, the officers went ahead anyway,” she said.
After four hours, five friends, four neighbors, two cops, and an animal control officer, Maggie made it safely out of the wooded pond and back onto dry land.
“Maggie’s adventures aren’t new, but this one was by far the most harrowing,” Bates said. “I am truly in awe of our Lake County Sheriff’s deputies. I don’t think my Maggie would have survived if they hadn’t gone in and rescued her.”