A Gainesville woman lost her yellow labrador, Beignet, to an alligator lurking in Newnans Lake on Nov. 4.
Scarlett Dent was at the lake, located east of Gainesville, with her friends and 8-year-old son, Easton Lowery. They were spending a Saturday night outdoors when the attack occurred.
“It was horrible,” she said. “The image of Beignet looking at me and me looking at him for the last time is just stuck in my head all the time.”
As Dent spoke with her friends, Beignet broke through her home’s gate to join the group by the water. Easton had waded into the lake and was throwing sticks into the water for Beignet to fetch, Dent said. Just before they were about to leave, Easton began to scream.
Dent saw the alligator grab Beignet by the stomach, dragging him under, she said. She ran into the water and tried to grab her dog from the alligator’s mouth.
“I was doing whatever I could to try and get my dog,” she said.
Beignet bit down hard on her hands, Dent said, but was ultimately dragged under by the alligator. It was the last time she saw Beignet.
The Gainesville resident grew up swimming in Florida lakes and rivers with her dogs and feels she let her guard down.
“I guess you just get too comfortable with your surroundings, and you don’t realize how something can happen in an instant, and it did happen in an instant.”
Dent said she received negative backlash after the attack was reported in the media, but she said losing an integral part of her family has been punishment enough.
“I will never take another dog down to waters in Florida again,” she said. “Unfortunately, I learned a really hard lesson.”
Perran Ross, a retired UF wildlife ecology and conservation professor, said this mistake is all too common in Florida, one even he has made.
“I’ve actually had a dog killed by an alligator, so I’m very aware of the dangers here,” he said.
Alligators are prevalent in Newnans Lake and some are very large, Ross said. Adult alligators prey on ducks, raccoons and the occasional dog, he said.
“They really are very good at ambushing creatures that come to the edge of the water,” he said.
Hope Sotolongo-Miranda, a UF civil engineering junior, said she avoids most Florida lakes and rivers due to the likelihood of alligators. Although the death of Beignet was sad, Sotolongo-Miranda, 20, doesn’t think it’s right to criticize Dent.
“It’s not very productive to be negative,” she said. “(Dent’s) going through grief. She lost her dog.”