Dog saved after jumping from car into gator-filled lake

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. - It would be any dog owner's worst nightmare -- your dog jumping out of your moving car and into a lake full of gators. One Seminole County man went through that with his beloved hound dog Buckley on Monday.

"My dog just jumped out of my car when I was on the highway. And then he jumped into Lake Jesup. I'm right by Lake Jesup. Is there anything I can do?" Matt Mills told a 911 operator during a frantic call for help.

Mills said he was driving north on the 417 to pick up his girlfriend from the airport. Like always, his 1-year-old rescue dog went along for the ride and had his head out the window in the backseat.

Mills said while he was driving over Lake Jesup, Buckley jumped out the window.

"I see him rolling like a rag doll, just hitting the pavement, bouncing up, hitting the pavement," said Mills, describing what he saw in his rearview mirror.

Mills said he then saw Buckley gain balance and then he jumped over the wall and into Lake Jesup about 50 feet below. Mills immediately stopped on the side of bridge but couldn't see Buckley anywhere, so he called 911.

"Do you see him at all in the water?" the 911 operator asked Mills.

"No. I got out and I ran and I looked," said Mills.

The Seminole County Sheriff's Office sent a couple of deputies to meet Mills and also sent deputies out on an airboat. About 35 minutes after Mills made that frantic 911 call he got word that the deputies spotted Buckley swimming in circles near one of the pylons of the bridge and they pulled him to safety.

"When I heard they had found him and he was in the airboat, I mean, words can't express. I can't do you any justice. I was just so grateful and I still am," said Mills.

Mills rushed Buckley to a veterinarian, who did X-rays and found the hound dog had a fractured pelvis and a lot of road rash. He was able to go home the same day, and with the help of an anti-inflammatory, painkiller and antibiotic, he is recovering at home.

"I had already decided in my mind that I had lost him forever. All odds said that he shouldn't have been alive," said Mills.

Mills said he believes Buckley dropped his tennis ball out the window and tried to go after it.

"What I assume happened is Buckley dropped his ball because he's obsessed with stuff like tennis balls and he had one in the car that I can't find now. (He must have) dropped it out of the window and chased after it," said Mills.

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