While playing just outside his home, three-year-old toddler Daniel Childs wandered into the wilderness in a rural area of Live Oak, Florida. As his frantic and terrified mother launched police units into a frantic search combing the forest, they would end up coming across a most unlikely assistant while on their assignment. Something with both a maligned and terrifying reputation.
Normal Afternoon Gone Awry
For a Live Oak, Florida native who we’ll call Patti Childs, the afternoon of Tuesday, February 18, 2020 seemed just as serene as any other day. She was in her house tending to chores while her children were playing out in the front yard. What could go wrong?
While some parents wouldn’t feel entirely safe letting their children play outside unsupervised, Patti felt that living in a small town made all the difference. However, she would soon find out that this wasn’t the case at all. As Patti went out to collect her children, she found herself in quite an alarming situation.
Patti soon realized that her 3-year-old son Daniel wasn’t with the other children. Patti’s heart instantly dropped. She called out her son’s name for quite some time. She then began searching around the house, but the child wasn’t showing up anywhere.
Within the space of a few minutes, Patti found herself living every parent’s worst nightmare. Her child had gone missing. While most of us would immediately imagine this had been the work of kidnappers or other kinds of criminals, Patti lived in a rural area. To make matters worse, surrounding the house was a vast forest, full of unique dangers. In a panic, Patti called the only people who she knew would be able to help her.
A Frantic Phone Call
It had been a fairly calm day for the policemen and women at the Suwannee County Sheriff’s Office. That was all until they got a call from Patti, who sounded as though she were in a state of sheer panic. It’s safe to assume that the police dispatch worker didn’t quite understand what was going on, as the call came through choked, terrified sobs.
Then the message became clear: a local mother had lost her child. The police made the case priority number one. The rural police knew how wild and unforgiving nature could be, especially for a toddler. However, not a lot of time had gone by. Police were hopeful they could find the missing kid, but it wouldn’t be a job for one or two officers.
Strength In Numbers
The police knew well that they would not get anywhere by dropping two officers off at the scene and going about their business as usual. Instead, the sheriff gathered up every available trooper he had, and made a plan to find this missing toddler.
They would need to start off at Patti’s house and then comb the whole surrounding area. This meant tackling any loose brush, caves, and tall grass. Being a tiny child, Daniel could have crept into any little grove and could easily be passed over with being noticed. Police also had to assume that the child was scared and might be hiding. If they didn’t find him quick, they might have to turn to some last resort techniques.
Trying To Avoid The Last Resort
Many cases involving children who wander into rural areas end up resulting in them falling victim to such things as exposure to the outdoors themselves. If the environment were to be too hot or too cold, Daniel would stand very little chance in lasting more than a day.
Knowing this, in similar instances, many police departments call upon the community to help expand a search party. Luckily, this little boy had one thing going for him: living in Florida. The good weather would definitely buy him some time if worst came to worst. Yet after about an hour into the search, things started looking quite bad for the officers.
Search Gets Desperate
Despite Florida having generally amazing weather, it isn’t without its winter chills. And as the afternoon wore on with the search party combing the woods, that chill began to sharpen significantly. As officers scattered across the dense forest surrounding Patti’s Live Oak home, they were still coming up with nothing.
There was no distant cry, no footprints, and no signs of a struggle. In an effort to secure a quick find, the police decided to bring out their K-9 units. With a sniff of Daniel’s clothes, these trained dogs would most certainly be able to find him. However, this too would prove to be a wasted effort.
An Irate Dog
As the search continued throughout Live Oak’s forest, another call came into the police dispatch. This time, the caller was a concerned neighbor, who reported an irate dog surrounding a small child. The neighbor said that as they tried to approach, the dog charged at them and refused to let them help the child.
Not knowing what they’d find, police rushed onto the scene, all the while hoping that the dog in question would not turn on the little boy. They had to mentally prepare themselves for anything, as they knew things could have taken a shift. However, as they were entering that area, someone met them halfway.
As police rushed toward the location of Daniel, they walked right into Buddy, the child’s family dog. The thing is, if one is on a rural path and they come face to face with pit bull, the outcome could be very nasty, depending on how the dog was raised. However, Buddy was no street dog; he was a pet who loved his owner more than anything.
Buddy knew that Daniel would need some human help and did the unthinkable. He kindly greeted the boys in blue and began leading them down a path. They didn’t know where the dog was leading them, but followed in earnest, hoping that perhaps he was bringing them to where they needed to be.
Buddy Leads The Way
As the dog trotted along the path, he would constantly turn back to the police and make sure that they were following him. Whatever he was leading them too, he really wanted them to see it. After some time, they eventually caught a glimpse of blond hair in the far distance.
What they saw was an upset, but fully functioning and intact, little Daniel. As the police picked up the little boy, Buddy the pit bull seemed to be in high spirits. Now, they had to reach out to Patti and her family as soon as possible. The poor mother had not been doing well in the absence of her child.
Reunion Between Mother and Son
Like any normal parent, Patti kind of shut down with the absence of her son. Throughout the whole ordeal, she went through an array of emotions. She couldn’t help but feel a little responsible for Daniel and Buddy wandering off into those woods. Had she kept a closer eye on them, things would have been much different.
In a split second, Patti’s entire world had turned upside down, and she didn’t quite know how to turn things right side up again. Then the call came in from the police, and they broke the news to her that both her dog and her son had been found in perfect condition. Patti found herself in a very unique position in that moment.
One of The Lucky Ones
According to CNN, there are 87,438 active missing persons cases in the United States today, and 30,618 of those are children. When one considers all those missing children out there, Patti is lucky that her son was found safely less than three hours after he was lost. He could have just as easily been gone forever.
When Patti got the call that Daniel was okay, her misery instantly melted away. She couldn’t believe how blessed she was. And if anyone was to thank, it was not just the police, but truly, her dog Buddy. The pooch had lived up to the saying that a dog is truly a man’s best friend. While it seems like their story would end right there, it was just beginning.
Buddy’s Media Explosion
The Suwannee County Sheriff’s Office didn’t waste any time posting about Buddy on Instagram. It was definitely a story worth talking about. The K-9 companion followed, protected, and eventually even took an active part in the rescue of his boy. If that doesn’t convince someone to bring a pit bull into their family, what will?
It wasn’t long after the Instagram post that the story became viral and was eventually picked up by the local news. From there, it was only a matter of days before the story was being run on websites and news networks across the nation. Even big names like MSN and People covered the story. Everybody seemed to have something to say about the pit bull who rescued his owner. Patti absolutely couldn’t believe some of the responses.
Misreading The Breed
Society has a very controversial stance on pit bulls. The breed has been known to snap and at times even attack their beloved owners. They also have somewhat of an intimidating appearance. However, pit bull lovers will tell you it’s all in how they’re raised — and many will even point to this story as an example of how amazing the breed can be.
One person commented on the story saying, “Pit Bulls are amazingly wonderful dogs and so loving with children…not just my opinion, but my experience. It is also my understanding that a Pit Bull was Helen Keller’s furry companion. The website ‘The Misunderstood Pit Bull’ has much educational information about this sweet breed. Buddy, you are a true Hero. Good Boy!” From the other side of the equation, however, some comments weren’t as enthusiastic.
Mother Under Fire
When people weren’t talking about how amazing Buddy was, they were questioning Patti’s parenting skills. One outraged person wrote on the Suwannee County Sheriff’s office Instagram page saying, “How could a three-year-old child be left wandering alone with a dog? That’s TOTAL PARENTAL NEGLIGENCE‼️”
One can’t argue with that logic. A three-year-old definitely shouldn’t be left outside unsupervised. Wandering off with the family dog is definitely one of the better missing children scenarios that could have happened. That said, most can assume that the mother will learn from this experience and keep a better eye on her child. With that, maybe there is something we can learn from this story as well.
Give Pits A Chance
When it comes to the pit bull, the masses likely have the breed all wrong, or at least that’s what most people in the comments section would have you believe. One person wrote, “Am I the only one who realized that it’s a pit bull!! Pit bull mix at least…..way to go pup! You raise them right and they’ll protect who they love!! Obviously and thank goodness for the neighbor!! Glad they are home safe.”
Another person shared their own personal pit bull tale: “When I was four, I asked my mom if we could walk the dogs, but she was busy doing dishes. I left the house with two massive pit bulls. My mom tells me to this day that she was telling the cops to please not to get close and/or shoot my dogs. There was no leash. They protected me and were right beside me all the time. I was the safest little girl there was.”
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