Toddler Went Missing in the Wilderness But An Unlikely Hero Saved the Day

By Camila

on Mon Oct 19 2020

Three-year-old Daniel Childs was playing outside his home in Live Oak, Florida, when he did what most kids his age do. Curiosity got the best of him and he wandered off into the Florida wilderness. Unfortunately, his mother didn’t notice right away. By the time she realized her son was missing, it was too late. He had seemingly vanished off the face of the Earth. But when she called authorities to report her child missing, they had no choice but to call on the help of an unlikely and ferocious ally.

It Was a Normal Florida Afternoon


It was a seemingly normal Tuesday afternoon for Live Oak, Florida mom, Patti Childs. Her day started out like every other day, but it quickly turned into a nightmare. In the blink of an eye, her life became every parent’s living nightmare. When Childs went outside to check up on her kids, she realized that one of them was missing.

She Carried Out Her Normal Routine

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She took care of the house chores the way she normally did every other day. But cleaning a house and tidying things up is tough when you’ve got kids running around. So, she asked them to go play in the front yard. Luckily, she didn’t have to tell them twice. They were more than happy to oblige. But would this prove to be the biggest mistake of her life?

She Told Her Kids To Go Outside


Kids love playing outdoors, especially when they’re really young. They’re free to explore their surroundings, which is exactly what Childs’ had banked on. She wanted to finish a few tasks on her to do list before taking a second to herself. So, while the little ones played, she took care of the cleaning. She had no reason to suspect that anything could go horribly wrong, but sadly, it did.

She Left Her Kids Unsupervised


Most parents would never consider leaving their kids alone no matter how safe their neighborhood was, but Childs felt really comfortable with it because they lived in a peaceful town. What could go wrong? It turns out that plenty could, which she soon realize.

One of Her Kids Was Nowhere in Sight


She went out to the front yard to call her kids back in the house, but something sent chills down her spine. Her 3-year-old son, Daniel wasn’t anywhere in sight. She quickly looked around trying to spot him, but he wasn’t with his siblings. Her heart skipped a beat for a moment. But before panicking, she looked around to see if she could spot him in the property, but he wasn’t there.

Was He Playing Hide and Go Seek?


Most kids Daniel’s age love playing hide and go seek. Maybe that’s what Daniel was doing. But his siblings quickly confirmed that they weren’t playing any games. Daniel was nowhere in sight. As panic set in, she cried out her toddler’s name, but he didn’t answer her back. Where on Earth did he go?

She Searched the Entire Property


Daniel wasn’t her first child so she knew that kids had a habit of wandering off, especially when they’re young and rebellious. Maybe he had wandered off to the backyard or a neighbor’s house. Her heart was racing so fast, she felt like she could pass out at any moment. She frantically searched everywhere but came back empty. All of a sudden, she started imagining all kinds of scenarios.

It Was Every Parent’s Worst Nightmare


Child’s son was missing and she immediately started assuming the worst. Perhaps he ran into a criminal or a child kidnapper had abducted him. But then she started wondering why anyone would want to take her child. And then a troubling thought crept into her mind.

She Was Living in the Middle of Nowhere


She needed help but her home was right smack in the middle of a rural area and there was a vast forest surrounding her property. Who knew what kind of danger lurked behind the trees and bushes? Left with no other choice, she grabbed her phone and called for help.

Her Call for Help Left Them Shocked


The officers at the Suwannee County Sheriff’s Office had been experiencing a slow day. But their peace and quiet was interrupted by Child’s frantic phone call. At first, the dispatcher had a tough time understanding the woman because she was crying and screaming on the other end of the line.

A Mother’s Plea Became a Call to Action


After they calmed her down, she explained to them that her son and the family dog were both missing. She assumed the pooch was out with her boy somewhere but she worried that something else might have happened. So, as soon as the cops recovered from the shock, they sprang into action.

The Missing Case Became a Priority


Given the seriousness of the situation, the cops made Daniel’s case their main priority, but they knew how dangerous nature was around their neck of the woods, especially for a 3-year-old. They needed to act fast. Unfortunately, time was running out.

Time Was Still on Their Side… For Now

Facebook / Suwannee Country Sheriff’s Office

Fortunately, the boy hadn’t been missing for very long, and cops knew that they still had a window of opportunity to find the boy alive. But they still needed something very important. Every available officer would be needed to start searching. The more people they brought in, the better the odds. But could they do it?

This Wasn’t a One-Man Job


The sheriff ordered all available troopers to the scene to form a search party. Once they got to Child’s house, they started searching everywhere and left no stone unturned, literally. They looked through bushes, tall grass and even caves. But would their methods pay off or were they wasting precious time?

He Could Have Crawled Into a Hole


By this point, Daniel could have been anywhere. He might have crawled into a hole, which would make it difficult to find him. However, the officers knew that they couldn’t give up and yet the boy hadn’t turned up and they started fearing the worst.

He Could Fall Victim to the Elements


The cops assumed that the boy was probably scared out of his mind and hiding somewhere. But time was running out and the longer he was out there, the more likely the risk that he would fall victim to a wild animal or worse. It’s not like there weren’t any bears lurking around and Florida is known for having snakes slithering around in the wilderness. But that wasn’t their only concern.

The Elements Could Have Put Him at Risk


Being out in the wilderness can be dangerous even for adults. But this was a 3-year-old and his tiny body might not be able to handle the sudden rise or sudden drop in temperatures. If he got wet and it got chilly, he could suffer from hypothermia. If that’s the case there’s no way he would last 24 hours. But luckily, living in Florida gave him an incredible advantage.

The Florida Weather Was on Their Side


While the search wasn’t turning up anything, there was still hope for the boy. For starters, Florida has a pretty warm climate practically all year-round. But it was still winter and as the afternoon dragged on, the temperature started to drop.  At this point, the officers had looked everywhere and hadn’t found anything yet. Had someone or something taken the boy?

There Was No Sign of the Boy


Authorities started to worry about the boy’s well-being. A 3-year-old who finds himself lost in the woods would likely start crying or screaming for his mother. But they had heard nothing coming from the woods. There were no signs of footprints from a potential kidnapper, but they were sure that the boy had to be here somewhere, so they called in some backup.

K-9 Units Started Scouring the Forest


The Police Brought Out their K-9 Units to the scene and gave the dogs some of Daniel’s clothes. It was their hope that the dogs would be able to find him by following his scent. Unfortunately, this didn’t turn up any results. But then the police dispatcher received another urgent call that sent them scrambling.

Reports Came in of a Dog and a Child


A concerned neighbor called the police to report that there was a small child being was being surrounded by an irate dog. The neighbor also stated that when they tried to approach the boy, the dog got very protective and wouldn’t allow them anywhere near him. So, they called the cops in the hopes that they would have better luck. But would they get there in time?

They Ran Into Buddy


The officers prepared themselves for what could wind up being a very ugly situation if an angry dog decided to attack. They had no idea of it was protecting the child from others or trying to scare everyone off so it could hurt or eat the child. But as police rushed towards the location reported by the caller, they ran right into Buddy.

Was Buddy Friend or Foe?

Instagram / @quick.rocket.thepitbull

It turns out that Buddy was the Child’s family dog, but the cops didn’t know that right away and it worried them. Encountering a pit bull can have some unexpected results. There was no way of knowing if it was a social dog or if it would lash out and attack them. Would the pit bull stop them from rescuing the boy?

Buddy Was Here to Help


Buddy might have just been a dog, but he was well aware that Daniel needed more help than he could provide, so he found the officers and led them back towards the boy. At first, the cops had no idea where the dog was taking them, but followed him in the hopes that he wouldn’t steer them wrong and he didn’t.

Buddy Led the Cops

Facebook / Suwannee Country Sheriff’s Office

Buddy continued leading the cops down the path, but on occasion he would turn back to make sure that they were right behind him. Eventually, the cops noticed something in the distance. It appeared to be blonde hair and their hearts started racing with anticipation. Was this the boy they had been searching for all afternoon?

The Found the Little Boy

Facebook / Suwannee Country Sheriff’s Office

As cops got closer, they realized that it was in fact Daniel, the little boy they had been looking for. He was obviously quite upset but he didn’t seem injured, which brought the officers a great deal of relief. And as soon as they picked the boy up, Buddy got excited as if celebrating the rescue that he had played a big role in. Now the officers had to reach out to the boy’s family.

Patti, the Mom Wasn’t Doing Well


Like most mothers in this situation, Childs was beside herself with fear, anger and sadness. She kept replaying the events of the day in her mind and wondered if she wasn’t responsible for what happened somehow. If only she had kept an eye on her kids, then perhaps Daniel wouldn’t have run off. Then she wondered what she would do if they found her son’s lifeless body and it shook her to the core. She was on the verge of shutting down when something amazing happened.

She Got a Call from the Cops


All of a sudden, the police called her and told that her son had been found alive and well, along with Buddy, the family dog. In that moment, her fear turned into utter joy and relief. She went through all kinds of emotions and there were certainly lots of tears. But she also realized that things could have turned out much different.

Daniel Childs Got Really Lucky

Instagram / @lasd_lhs

According to CNN, there are approximately 30,618 active cases of missing children in the United States. Many are never found and those that are, don’t come home alive. But Childs was lucky that Daniel was found in under three hours from the time of his disappearance.

Cops Weren’t the Only Ones She Thanked


When Childs realized that Daniel was okay, she had the troopers to thank for sure, but there was someone else who deserved her thanks, too—Buddy, the pit bull. Without his quick action, Danile might not have lived to tell the tale. But the police didn’t waste any time posting this amazing story about Buddy on Instagram.

Cops Posted the Story on Instagram

Instagram / @suwanneesheriff

Soon word spread all over the internet about the pit bull who had kept a boy safe and even led rescuers to him. This obviously convinced some people that the bad rap pit bulls had gotten was not accurate at all. If anything, this story suggested that pit bulls are one of the best breeds to have as a pet. But not everyone was looking at the positive side of things.

Buddy Went Viral


Shortly after the Instagram post went up, other websites started running the story. Even PEOPLE and MSN covered the story. But when Childs started looking at some of the responses the story was getting, she was absolutely floored by what some folks were saying about her and Buddy.

Society Has Shunned Pit Bulls

Instagram /

For years, pit bulls have been shunned away by society. Relinquished to being “problematic dogs” thanks to the media’s obsession with them. Sadly, a lot of dog owners don’t do their research beforehand and end up with hyperactive dogs they don’t know how to train or handle. If you ask most pit bull owners, they’ll tell you that a dogs’ behavior is directly linked to the way they were raised. And Buddy’s case as the perfect example of how a proper upbringing can bring the best out in a pit bull.

Some People Praised Buddy

Instagram /

One commenter wrote on the story: “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!” And it is true that aggressive dogs aren’t born that way. But some commenters had harsh opinions about Buddy’s presence near the child.

Childs’ Parenting Skills Were Questioned


Although some of the comments were positive, there were some people who were very angry with Daniel’s mother. One person wrote this comment on the Suwannee County Sheriff’s office Instagram post: “How could a three-year-old child be left wandering alone with a dog? That’s TOTAL PARENTAL NEGLIGENCE‼️” But were they right?

It Was a Learning Experience


While it was unfortunate that Daniel had wandered off, it can also be said that he was left with his older siblings, so he wasn’t technically unsupervised. But after this experience, Childs will undoubtedly never leave her 3-year-old unattended ever again. So if anything, this situation was a learning experience for her. But not everyone was critical of Childs’ or the family dog.

Pit Bulls Protect Who They Love


Not everyone was on Buddy’s side but not everyone was against him either. One commenter 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.”

Pit Bulls Made Her Feel Safe

Instagram /

Another commenter shared their story of their personal childhood encounter with a pit bull: “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.”

It Was a Good Ending


“It was such a good ending to something that could have been tragic,” Sheriff Sam St. John told WCTV Eyewitness News. “We’re all the time putting out tragic news. I’m telling you, it feels so good, so good to tell a good story.”

Give that Dog a Bone


“Fortunately, we were able to reunite the child with his mother, thanks in part to ‘man’s best friend’ and an alert neighbor,” the Suwannee County Sheriff’s Office wrote on social media, along with the hashtags “give that dog a bone,” “man’s best friend” and “Lassie ain’t got nothing on Buddy.”