When a three-year-old boy vanished from his Florida home, it was a terrifying realization for his parents.
On June 3, 2020, Marshal Butler, a Ponce de León resident with autism, went missing, setting off a frantic police search. The family received only a small measure of comfort after learning that the toddler was last seen with the two family dogs, Buckwheat and Nala, and only wearing a diaper.
Marshal was eventually located after many hours of searching, safe and sound with the family dogs who wouldn’t leave his side, according to a report from WJHG.
On Facebook, the Walton County Sheriff’s office made a plea for people to keep an eye out for him.
The post stated that “the child was last seen wearing only a diaper,” and that a K9 team has been brought in to assist in the search.
Marshal’s family was extremely concerned because they knew that due to his autism, he wouldn’t be able to communicate with anyone he encountered.
Kayla Stewart, Marshal’s aunt, described the family’s reaction to learning the toddler had vanished as “terrified.”
“We were panicked,” she told WJHG. “All sorts of worst case scenarios are running through their heads.”
Thankfully, Marshal was discovered close to a river about a mile from his house. Despite being covered in dirt, he was unharmed and with the family dogs, who seemed to have refused to let him go.
“Both of his dogs were right there with him,” neighbor, Carol Shelton, said. “[We’re] thankful that the pups kind of guided him along I guess they kept him safe.”
Marshal’s family expressed their joy at having Marshal back and their pride in their two devoted dogs for helping to keep him safe.
The mother of Marshal said, “They’re doing their job.”
To let Marshal’s family know that he had been located safe, the sheriff’s office posted a message on Facebook.
The post has since gone viral, receiving more than 3,000 reactions and 1,500 shares. It also revealed that the boy’s dogs had stayed with him.
One person commented, “So happy to hear he was found safe,” one person wrote. “So awesome the dog was found with him too! He was protecting him the whole time. Dogs are such loving animals!”
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