on June, 2019 in Ponce de Leon, Florida, the unimaginable happened to a family: their three-year-old son Marshal Butler, who was non-verbal and autistic, disappeared.
At approximately 11:40 am, the family, understandably in a state of panic, contacted the police.
Afterwards, for several hours, law enforcement personnel from Walton County, Holmes County, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, as well as family members and neighbors, searched the vicinity for the young child.
According to local NBC affiliate WJHG, Kayla Stewart, the boy’s aunt, mentioned that the family was plagued by various worst-case scenarios.
The search was further complicated by the fact that the non-verbal autistic child couldn’t communicate, and therefore may not have responded even if he heard someone calling his name.
Marshal had disappeared from his home and had been missing for an hour before searchers were alerted. While it’s unclear what occurred during that time, it’s possible that the family had already started looking for him before deciding to seek help from the authorities.
At the time, the Walton County Sheriff’s Office reported in a Facebook Live video that roughly 25-30 units were deployed to search for the missing child.
At approximately the same time, a Facebook post provided additional information:
“The child was last seen wearing only a diaper. There was approximately an hour time gap between when the child was last seen and when our agency was called. Walton Correctional Institution has been asked to bring their K9 Teams to assist.”
Although information on the incident is limited and may remain so, the positive outcome is that the boy was found safe during the search.
Neighbor Carol Shelton discovered Marshal and the two potential explanations for his well-being, as reported by WJHG News.
As it happens, the Sheriff’s Office received assistance from a K9, albeit not in the manner they anticipated!
Upon Marshal’s discovery roughly one mile from his residence, he was accompanied by the two family canines, Buckwheat and Nala.
It is presumed that the dogs followed him when he wandered away, although it’s possible that they later picked up his scent and tracked him. Regardless, they remained by his side throughout the ordeal.
“Both of his dogs were right there with him… [We’re] thankful that the pups kind of guided him along I guess they kept him safe,” said the neighbor.
The news showed his grateful mother giving the dogs some affection as a reward.
She appeared visibly relieved and commented that Buckwheat and Nala were merely doing their duty.
As the authorities worked on reuniting the boy with his family, a photograph of his rescue became viral.
Fortunately, Marshal was discovered in the vicinity of a river and did not sustain any bodily harm.
Despite appearing to have experienced a difficult situation, the young boy’s sole indication of such was being covered in dirt. Nonetheless, his mother attested that playing in dirt is among his most beloved activities.
It is possible that he thoroughly enjoyed his escapade with his animal companions, for all we are aware.
The Sheriff’s office expressed a viewpoint that was commonly held:
We aspire that Buckwheat and Nala are receiving plentiful treats for their part in safeguarding Marshal.
You may scroll down to view the Facebook Live video from that particular day.