Owner saves dog from shark’s jaws

A Florida Keys man punched a shark to save his dog from becoming a meal. The rat terrier named Jake, who was badly bitten, is expected to recover.

ISLAMORADA — Greg LeNoir watched in horror as the shark’s mouth opened wide, chomping a large set of teeth on his beloved 14-pound dog, Jake.

”Noooooo,” LeNoir shrieked, fearing the worst.

But the case of the rat terrier vs. the shark has a happy ending.

”Jake’s doing great,” LeNoir’s brother, Phillip, said Monday. “And I still can’t believe my brother jumped in the water and punched a shark.”

The saga began Friday afternoon when Greg LeNoir took Jake to the Worldwide Sportsman’s Bayside Marina pier in Islamorada for the dog’s daily swim. LeNoir said Jake is a fast and fearless swimmer, often retrieving jellyfish and soaked coconuts.

But this time, Jake, a 28-month-old dog adopted from an animal shelter, unexpectedly encountered the shark, which was about five feet long. As Jake disappeared under the water, LeNoir conquered his own fear and sprang to action.

”I clenched my fists and dove straight in with all my strength, like a battering ram,” LeNoir, 53, said Sunday, reliving the frightening ordeal. “I hit the back of the shark’s neck. It was like hitting concrete.”

Sharks are not uncommon in the marina, which is near the Islamorada Fish Co.’s open saltwater pool that attracts large tarpon.

LeNoir, a finish carpenter who lives in Islamorada, said he concluded the creature was either a bull shark or lemon shark after describing it to local fishermen and another brother, Louie, a shark-tooth collector in Orlando.

LeNoir’s wife of 17 years, Tessalee, said she wasn’t shocked by her husband’s heroics. ”People know him as Dr. Doolittle,” she said. “He’s the one who climbs up a tree to save a possum.”

Lenoir added: ‘We have no children. Jake became our child. When I saw the shark engulf him, I thought, `This can’t be the end.’ ”

The shark let go of Jake, and the dog popped to the surface, frantically swimming the few yards to shore. LeNoir followed, paddling through a red trail of blood from the dog.

At VCA Upper Keys Animal Hospital in Islamorada, veterinarian Suzanne Sigel and emergency on-call assistant Callie Cottrell patched Jake’s wounds.

”Amazingly, he wasn’t critical,” Sigel said. “He’s one lucky dog.”

The shark’s teeth punctured Jake’s skin and some muscle on the dog’s abdomen, chest and back in a pattern that looked like ”an upside-down smile,” Sigel said.

Jake also suffered lacerations on his right side and front left leg, with skin hanging like ribbons, LeNoir said.

”The shark put almost all of Jake in his mouth, except for his head and three of his legs,” LeNoir said.

Sigel reexamined Jake on Monday and said the pooch is expected to recover.

”He looks great and is recuperating well,” she said. “I was worried he may have inhaled saltwater when he was pulled under, but there’s no evidence of infection or pneumonia. He’s healing great.”



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