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      Visitor with sharp teeth and long tail stops by at night

      Around 2:30 a.m. Thursday morning, Paul Shultz and his wife were awakened by a thumping sound at their front door at their home in Socastee. Mr. Shultz went to investigate only in time to find an alligator, standing on its hind legs, right outside his front door.

      "Somewhere in between 7 and 9 feet (long)," Shultz said.

      The beast was clearly confused and they can still see where the animal's claw left a scratch on a window.

      As soon as Shultz gained his composure - "The first indication was the heart rate was somewhat elevated" - he grabbed his camera and snapped some pictures. From inside the house, of course.

      "Certainly didn't open the door and step out to greet him."

      For awhile, Mr. Gator had his snout tangled in a wire plant hanger. So, the Shultz's wondered, what do we do now?

      "And the consensus was, if he wants it, he may have it."

      Eventually, the alligator rid himself of the plant hanger, got his body turned around and simply sauntered away down their sidewalk. Where to? Probably the retention pond behind the Shultz's house. But, "I was not going out at that time of the morning and try to find out where he was headed."

      Since the gator walked away without causing any real damage, Shultz says maybe the moral of this story is that if you leave the gator alone, he'll leave you alone.

      "The classic tale is, they're more afraid of us than we are of them. I think it's true."

      Still, their night visitor provides a cautionary tale - or tail - to the Shultz's and their neighbors.

      "Don't walk at night with small dogs or small children."

      Shultz's retirement hobby is nature photography. These were his first photos of an alligator.