A toddler wandering off in the evening as the sun is setting is every parent’s worst nightmare. When a small boy did just that on a cold October evening in Minnesota, it was terrifying. Thankfully, due to the heroic actions of a springer spaniel dog and her own puppy, one little boy’s wandering had a happy ending.
According to the Star Tribune, Kaitlyn Bottem’s two-year-old son (whose name has been kept out of news reports for his privacy) was playing with three cousins between the ages of seven and twelve. Their grandmother was watching the four kids outside the family’s home near Richmond, Minnesota.
Around 6:15, according to the children’s grandfather, Rick Gertken, the grandmother noticed that the two-year-old toddler was missing. So were the family’s two springer spaniels – Bella Grace and her puppy Madeline who had been with the children. Rick described the toddler as “adventurous,” but it’s unlikely anyone in the family thought that he would be so adventurous as to wander away on his own!
The family spent thirty minutes looking for the boy on their own before deciding that they needed help. It was getting darker and the air was chilly. The family’s search was joined by sheriff’s deputies, two trained bloodhounds, fire and rescue department personnel, and approximately 200 volunteers from the community. The search was also joined by a patrol helicopter with equipment designed to pick up heat signatures on the ground.
According to Stearns County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Vic Weiss, people “heard the dog barking at one point,” but were unable to locate the boy based on the barking. However, the helicopter’s equipment was able to detect the boy and Bella Grace. It revealed Bella Grace walking near the boy, occasionally sitting down before walking again. The video did not show everything though.
Officials, using the heat signature, arrived at the boy’s location about three hours after he had gone missing. There they found not only Bella Grace moving to attract attention, but Madeline curled up with the boy – sharing warmth! Rick told reporters that “The puppy stayed next to the boy the whole time.” In addition, an official told reporters that Bella Grace played a pivotal role in heling the searchers find the boy before it was too late. In the lieutenant’s words, the mother dog “absolutely, for sure” helped them. Lieutenant Vic Weiss described the scene as Bella Grace “in preservation and protection mode.”
In large part due to the actions and loyalty of Bella Grace and Madeline, the toddler was brought home “in good condition, although a bit cold and hungry.” We’re sure that the toddler and his canine heroes will be getting some extra treats and loving in gratitude for his safe return.