Crime & Public Safety

‘You just react.’ Hilton Head man recalls saving his dog from July alligator attack

Hilton Head Island resident Hugh Hobus puckers up for Harvey, after the black Labrador retriever jumped into Hobus’ pickup for a photo shoot. On July 20, 2018, Harvey was attacked on his left hind quarter by an alligator when he got too close to an island lagoon. Hobus, who threw a stick to get the attention of Harvey and distract the alligator, said the recovery is going well and the energetic canine is back to jumping into the truck to go for a ride. Hot weather is keeping Harvey and his brother Bo spending their days on the cool tile floor of the family business.
Hilton Head Island resident Hugh Hobus puckers up for Harvey, after the black Labrador retriever jumped into Hobus’ pickup for a photo shoot. On July 20, 2018, Harvey was attacked on his left hind quarter by an alligator when he got too close to an island lagoon. Hobus, who threw a stick to get the attention of Harvey and distract the alligator, said the recovery is going well and the energetic canine is back to jumping into the truck to go for a ride. Hot weather is keeping Harvey and his brother Bo spending their days on the cool tile floor of the family business. dmartin@islandpacket.com

The attack lasted a matter of seconds, but Hugh Hobus saw it in his dreams for weeks.

Harvey — Hobus’ 1-and-a-half-year-old black Labrador — was in a pond in the Long Cove Club neighborhood when an 8-foot alligator sank its teeth into Harvey’s backside on July 20.

“Harvey was very lucky, and we’re very lucky to still have Harvey,” the 20-year Hilton Head Island resident and business owner said Wednesday.

The incident was much on Hobus’ mind again this week following the death of a beloved teacher who was killed by an alligator Monday while walking her dog on Hilton Head. He remembered how quickly an interaction with an alligator can happen and how fortunate he is to have survived.



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“It was a matter of not even a second from when I saw the alligator’s head pop up to when he lunged at Harvey,” Hobus said.

Harvey is normally not allowed in the water, but on the day of the attack, he managed to get into the pond.

Hobus was standing 15 feet away and using a stick to tempt Harvey out of the water with a game of fetch when the gator struck.

That stick saved Harvey’s life.

The attack came so quickly that Hobus simply reacted without thinking. He launched the stick at Harvey.

“I don’t know if I could ever replicate that throw, but it was so lucky because I hit (the alligator and Harvey) at the same time. Otherwise, Harvey wouldn’t be with us,” Hobus said.

The stick hit Harvey’s rear and the alligator’s nose. The alligator disappeared as quickly as it came.

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“You just react,” he said. “It’s very tough. It happened so fast.”

Hobus said you never know what’s living in the Lowcountry’s lagoons, so you have to be aware of your surroundings.

He said his guard may have been down a little because he and Harvey were at a neighbor’s house where they felt comfortable. That’s not OK, he said.

“You’ve got to be on your toes,” he said.

Harvey was a trooper. So much so, the family — and possibly Harvey — didn’t realize the extent of his injuries until the vet examined the wound.

“I don’t think he even realized what happened,” Hobus said. “He actually hopped up into the truck for me to take him to the vet.”

Harvey had three wounds: One on the inside of his knee and two, 8-inch incisions on his behind.

Because of his stitches, Harvey had to stay dry for 10 days but is now back to visiting the beach every morning and afternoon, lounging in and around the Hobus’ pool and playing with his 2-year-old black Lab brother, Bo.

“He’s doing great,” Hobus said. “He came out of it flying colors. You wouldn’t even know he got bit by a gator.”

Still, Hobus remains wary when he’s in an alligator habitat.

“These are top predator animals. They’ve been around for probably millions of years, and there’s a reason for that.”

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