On a 20-degree night in Missouri, a lost 6-year-old’s two dogs kept him warm enough to survive until searchers found him huddled in shrubs at the bottom of a ditch out in the woods behind his house.
Ryle Smith, who had been out in the cold for six hours, would have died had the boxer Baxter and the lab Bella not been there, rescuers told Ryle’s parents.
"I wasn't scared, I was just really cold," Ryle told the Joplin Globe
the day after the incident. "Bella was my guard dog and Baxter was next to me the whole time."
Ryle had been playing near the woods earlier in the day, the two dogs at his heels. But as the sun set, he became disoriented and lost.
"I was nervous because it was getting dark and some of the area in the woods can be really dangerous,” said his father, Ryan Smith. "He was outside with the dogs, and we didn’t see or hear from either of them."
Ryle was reported missing to authorities in Seneca around 6 p.m., prompting a five-hour search for the boy.
Police and firefighters combed the area and even brought in a helicopter with infrared capabilities to see if they could locate the boy from the air.
Ryle wasn't wearing shoes and he nearly had frostbite on his feet. He also had cuts on his body and holes in his clothes, all from his trek in the woods.
"When we got to him at the ambulance, he was wrapped up like a mummy," Ryan Smith told the local Missouri paper. "I hugged him and told him I loved him. I was just glad to have my son back."
Baxter has been with the family longer than Ryle's been alive — 10 years. Bella was added to the family over Christmas.
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