He’s survived the clutches of an alligator’s jaw, and now he’s reporting for duty. I’m talking of course about Gunner, now Detective Gunner as he was recently deputized by Sheriff Carmine Marceno.
Gunner made national headlines after a Florida Wildlife Federation video was released of his father, Rick Wilbanks, rescuing the five-week-old puppy from the grip of an alligator. The now-famous video showed Rick jumping into the lake and prying the gator’s jaws open to rescue his puppy, all while never dropping his cigar.
Wilbanks told CapeStyle Magazine that he had just gotten the puppy from the breeder and had no idea the incident was recorded. But the daring rescue was recorded, and Rick and Gunner won the hearts of Americans everywhere.
One of those individuals was Sheriff Carmine Marceno, who believed that Gunner and his story could help educate people about water safety. In a ceremony last week, Gunner raised his right paw and swore an oath to the Constitution, making him the newest Deputy Dog as a detective and “safety officer” due to his personal experience. Detective Gunner is now authorized to give official tips about safety and reports directly to Lt. Bosco.
Rick, who developed a close relationship with Sheriff Marceno, is excited that Gunner can serve his community.
“I think it’s wonderful,” Rick told CapeStyle Magazine. “Taking something that could have been a tragedy and turning it into something good. I’m happy.”
Starting in January, Detective Gunner will be going to schools to talk about water safety, visit children and the elderly in hospitals and assisted living facilities, eventually even educating teenagers about driver safety.
“It [Gunner’s story] will start a conversation with people,” said Amy Dell Aquila, the Sheriff’s Community Liaison. “Conversations about how this happened, how to avoid this.”
Saturday was Detective Gunner’s first official day on the job. Stationed at the Community Resource Center at the new Brotherhood of Heroes Museum & Resource Center, Gunner was available for photos with individuals coming in for a Christmas food giveaway.
Also attending the event were Cape Coral’s newest State Representative, Mike Giallombardo, and recently elected City Councilman Tom Hayden, both of whom helped distributed food to local families.
The Deputy Dogs program is a recent program which engages the community using superhero-like “deputy dogs”, spreading specific messages about safety to Lee County residents and guests. The first deputy dog was Deputy Chance, Sheriff Marceno’s own rescue dog, who is now Lee County’s Goodwill Ambassador.
Deputy Chance has since been joined by a team of capable deputies, including Lt. Bosco, Kylo, Bowden, and Dasher. Some deputy dogs have specific skills. For example, GiGi is the deputy’s animal abuse analyst, Mad Dog is an undercover operative, and the bloodhounds Maggie and Mercy search for missing children.
Cape Coral has their own patron deputy dog as well, named Prince. Prince, or “The Prince of Cape Coral” is a debonair poodle who is the team’s public relations officer. Who’s a good boy, representing his hometown? Prince is!
In fact, all these deputy dogs are good boys and girls, serving their communities. Detective Gunner is in good company.