PAW PAW, Mich. — A Paw Paw family securing their home a little tighter after their 2-year-old got out on his own and went missing for about three hours Wednesday.
Van Buren County first responders found the child safe and Domonic Peake said they now have new locks and alarms installed at the home so their adventurous toddler doesn't get out again.
Peake said, “It's definitely a lot better morning than it was yesterday. It was scary.”
Princeton, the little boy who is almost 2-years-old, was able to get out of his locked home and walk through several acres of muddy land.
“First thing I thought was he's face down in some water.” Peake said, “I thought I was never going to see him again. There's lakes back there, there's ponds over here.”
Peake said he was panicked while searching around the property and only found his son's sippy cup.
He said, “Ran down the drive, but I actually came across his footprints leading into the field. So, I immediately called the police. They had to try and calm me down when I made the call. I was crying, I could barely talk.”
The family's 1-year-old pit-boxer mix dog named Apollo was by Princeton’s side.
Peake said, “As much as I loved that dog before, I owe my life to my dog.”
The loyal companion was with the Princeton every step of the way.
Peake said, “They're always playing with each other and I’m just really thankful that he stuck by his side.”
Abbott said it's a good thing the child and the pit-boxer mix have a good relationship, because the dog became a key part of their search.
Van Buren County investigators and five K-9s were used and Drones and a helicopter were on the way before Princeton was found on the other side of this field, about three hours after he was reported missing.
Abbott said, “The little guy, once in a while, we'd see his footprints, but the dog was sinking in and if it wasn't for that dog it could have been a lot worse. We're fortunate with the dog being with him we could track where the dog was walking.”
He said he wanted to award Apollo's allegiance by dropping off hundreds of pounds of food and treats.
“I was actually sitting at home last night thinking what could I do for this dog because we give awards out to good citizens and things like that.” Abbott said, “Appreciation for what that dog did yesterday.”
Peake said he got the dog as a puppy so his son could grow up with a friend. After saving Princeton, Peake said they share a bond for life.
Peake said, “I owe it to my dog, because if my son was alone who knows what could have happened.”
Van Buren County Sheriff Daniel Abbott said, “Even with the great outcome, talking with the guys after work and even today several of us couldn't sleep because it just hit so close to home.”
Letting out a sigh of relief, Abbott said there's a lesson anyone can learn from the situation.
He said, “Whether it's a missing child, Alzheimer’s, dementia, anything like that. Once they come up missing time is crucial. So, call us immediately so we can get at the scene, secure it and get our K-9s and other resources there to aid.”
Peake said his son is healthy and recovering at home with some scratches and mosquito bites.
“I want to thank every single one of them personally.” He said, “They really changed my life when they saved my son.”