SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – A 7-year-old Yorkie-Bichon mix is recovering from an emergency surgery after his owners say he was attacked by a Florida black bear outside their unincorporated Oviedo home Monday morning.
David Fulghum said it was about 5:30 a.m. when he woke up to his dog, Gator, barking.
"I figured it was another raccoon again in the trash," Fulghum said. "I turned the corner in the house and I looked and there is a back bear standing at my back door, I'm like 'Whoa.'"
He said there were three bears, two yearlings and what he thought was their mother, all surrounding their house looking into their windows. He believes they were curious at Gator's barking.
It was the first time he and his wife, Brandy, ever saw bears outside their home. Fascinated, they watched until he was ready to leave for work. He cracked the door just a bit to see if they were gone, and that's when Gator ran out.
"Gator goes out and all of a sudden he takes off, I'm like 'oh, my God,'" Fulghum said. "I booked it around the corner there and all of a sudden the bear is standing there with my dog in its mouth."
Without thinking, Fulghum said he kicked the bear.
"He wasn't getting my dog, so I kicked the living hell out of that bear," he said.
Fulghum said the bear then stood up on his hind legs and towered over him, that's when he grabbed Gator and ran into the house.
"I'm just thinking about Gator, that little guy," he said with tears in his eyes.
For Fulghum, who had pit bulls all his life and never wanted a small dog, Gator has saved him, especially after his son died of an overdose last year.
"He's my therapy dog once we lost our son last year, and he's been there for me so I'm going to be there for him," Fulghum said.
Gator has extensive injuries from the attack and underwent $5,700 emergency surgery Monday. Fulghum's boss at Mercury Plumbing loaned them the money this morning to pay for the surgery.
"It means everything," he said.
Fulghum's wife, Brandy, said Florida Fish and Wildlife is investigating. She said bear management came out Monday and told her as the weather gets colder, the bears will be out longer.
"I want people to know the FWC guy said they are out 18 hours a day now and you have to be aware of your surroundings," Brandy Fulghum said.
The bear clawed at the Fulghums' car tires, as well.
Fulghum sent News 6 a video of Gator Tuesday showing the dog recovering from his Monday surgery.
In the video, you can see Fulghum walk in and greet Gator after a vet tech opened his cage.
"He hears daddy," Fulghum said as he approached the cage. "You hear daddy, gator?"
The dog, still attached to wires and connected to tubes, looks comforted to see his owner.
Gator survived surgery but is still fighting for his life. The family is nervous about the possibility of infection setting in.
Anyone who would like to help the Fulghum family pay for Gator's recovery can donate here.