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Laura Sheldon of Treasure Island, Florida, doesn’t go anywhere without her lovable 10-year-old Husky mix, Denali. Laura travels the United States for her job as a campground host, and Denali is by her side for every adventure. However, Laura nearly lost her sidekick during a recent trip when Denali jumped into a pond and was attacked by a massive alligator. Denali’s reptile run-in and heartwarming recovery have earned her the title of May’s “Most Unusual Claim of the Month” by Nationwide, the nation’s first and largest provider of pet health insurance.
Laura adopted Denali nearly 10 years ago from a rescue center in Virginia and has since taken her to campgrounds and national parks across the nation. The lifestyle is a perfect fit for the incredibly social Husky mix who loves swimming and exploring the outdoors.
“You’d never guess that Denali is 10 years old. She still has the energy and strength she did when I first brought her home,” said Laura. “Her curiosity does get the best of her sometimes, so I have to keep her on a leash whenever we’re outside.”
On the day of the alligator altercation, Laura and Denali were visiting with family at a Florida residence located on a golf course. While Laura visited with her family members inside, Denali was enjoying playtime with two other dogs in the back yard. The yard was fenced in with a screen enclosure that prevented the dogs from wandering off. However, after Denali spotted a small rabbit, she decided to sneak out.
“I went out to check on Denali and she was nowhere to be found,” said Laura. “She had discovered a weak spot in the enclosure and pushed her way through it. I was super worried and immediately went looking for her.”
Laura searched up and down the street for Denali and informed the security office that her dog was missing. After nearly an hour of searching, Laura spotted Denali roughly one block away from the house. She called out to the escapee, and Denali came to her visibly exhausted.
When Denali walked up she was soaking wet and looked really tired,” said Laura. “It was hot out so I figured she must have found a pool or pond to cool off after chasing the rabbit.”
After putting the soaking pup back in the yard, two residents approached Laura and asked if she was aware of what had just happened to her dog. Unbeknownst to Laura, Denali had jumped into a small pond on the golf course where a seven foot alligator was known to be living. The two neighbors had tried to call Denali away from the pond before she jumped in, but they were too late. As soon as Denali jumped in, the alligator rose to the surface and latched its jaws around Denali’s leg. Denali bravely bit back and clamped down on the alligator snout. After a few moments of struggle, above and below the water, Denali outlasted the alligator and it released its grip.
“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” said Laura. “I rushed back to check Denali and found an open wound on her leg and knew she needed help.”
Laura rushed Denali to Southwest Florida Veterinary Specialist and Emergency Hospital for treatment. The staff evaluated the ailing pup and stitched her wound. Miraculously, Denali escaped the ordeal with nothing more than the gash on her leg. The staff was amazed and told Laura that Denali was the first dog they’ve ever seen survive an alligator attack.
Since the incident, Denali has made a full recovery and is back on the road with Laura. Denali is a little timid around water, but hasn’t lost her adventurous spirit. Laura is grateful for the amazing care from the veterinary staff and thankful for the pet insurance support they received.
“Denali is much more than just a dog to me. I would have been devastated if I lost her,” said Laura. “I can’t thank the veterinary staff enough for their care and kindness towards Denali. I was also very pleased with the pet insurance support from Nationwide. Looking back, I now know that getting insurance for Denali was a smart move.”