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Dog heroes lead searchers to lost boy
Devoted and loyal, dogs have long been known as best friends and protectors, especially of their human family. In the case of Dawn Ayoungman’s missing toddler, the combined instincts of two dogs led to his discovery.
On Sept. 12 at 11:40 a.m., Ayoungman’s three-year-old son, Jet, wandered away from their Siksika home, accompanied by their German shepherd, Duke. Ayoungman said the two were very close and often played outside together.
But when she got the phone call at school that her son had disappeared, she was distraught. The boy was supposed to be in his grandmother’s care. But Ayoungman’s hope was fuelled by the thought that if they found Duke, they would find Jet.
It didn’t take long for the Siksika community to pull together in their search efforts. Word of the lost boy spread like wild fire. The local RCMP, the fire department, and more than 50 members of the community fanned out to look for Jet. Family, friends and volunteers began searching the wooded area closest to the house. Ayoungman said she was amazed at how quickly everyone responded. But hour after hour passed and there was still no sign of the lost boy.
In the afternoon, when Ellen Crowfoot went into Gleichen to get provisions for the searchers, she found two men keen to join the search, Eric Peacemaker and Garth Solway. Although Peacemaker initially wanted to bring Bandit, his blue heeler cross, they decided to go straight to the river instead.
When they joined the search party, the searchers said they wished they had a dog, so Peacemaker volunteered to get Bandit who he described as a “very smart rez dog.” When they got back, Bandit bolted from the car with Peacemaker and Solway running after him. Where was the dog going? The search party continued looking through the thickest bush near the river when Peacemaker soon found Duke and Jet’s footprints in the sand.
It wasn’t the footprints that led them to Jet, but Duke who joined Bandit. The barking dogs took Peacemaker to the little boy. When Ayoungman heard the words, “I found him,” heart pounding, she stopped in her tracks. The searchers had first heard Jet laughing, but when they called his name he started to cry. Shoeless and hungry, he had wandered over a mile from his home and was sitting by a stream in the woods, his protector, Duke, at his side. When he was found, Jet had been missing for several hours. Search and rescue from Calgary were on their way with a police search dog and a plane.
Ayoungman describes her young son as an adventurous and rambunctious kid. Jet, she said, had been down to the river near where her mother lives before, but had always gone with others, never by himself.
Needless to say, Ayoungman is grateful for the efforts of everyone who participated in the search, but is most thankful for the dog heroes, Duke and Bandit.
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