Two-year-old River Schomaker wandered out of his family home late one night as his mother slept. The next morning, police were called to investigate his disappearance.
Since River had already been missing for several hours, officers feared the worst. It was freezing cold outside, and nobody knew how long the toddler would make it.
“I could see her wave me down rather frantically, she told me they had located River’s body,” Officer Daniel Tatro said of the mother.
Finally, after six hours of searching, K-9 Ava found a scent.
Police found River in a jumble of blackberry bushes a few blocks from his home. Becky Irving, Ava’s handler, said River “was in a diaper, in a T-shirt, and you could definitely tell he was cold.”
Child located by our K9 team. pic.twitter.com/HzW3ABZBNg
— Mountain Wave SAR (@MountainWaveSAR) February 18, 2017
“I could see his left arm rising and falling with his breath and I think I even got on the radio and said he was breathing and crying, and that was great news because that was the first time I had seen he was still alive,” Tatro told KGW8 News.
“I could see the blackberry bushes were intertwined around his legs, there was a thick vine that was stuck around his right shoulder.”
River clung to Tatro and wouldn’t let go when he lifted the boy from the bushes. “You could tell he was very weak and cold to the touch,” Tatro explained.
“He just had on a long sleeve t-shirt that was soaking wet and a diaper.” Police estimate that River was outside for around 11 hours before they found him.
After the ordeal, a judge ordered River to be taken into protective custody.
River’s mother, 27-year-old Hollian Markusen, was ordered to take drug treatment before she can get him back.
— Portland Police (@PortlandPolice) February 18, 2017
Officer Tatro is a father to foster children himself, so he did his best to help the young boy.
“You think of your own kids in a time like that, and what River must have gone through when he was stuck in those blackberry bushes,” he explained.
“You feel really bad for him, so you do everything you can to make him feel loved.” A few days after the event, River’s mother was able to visit him for the first time.
As for Ava, the heroic K-9 who rescued River, she received a steak dinner for her efforts.
She’s awaiting retirement in a few weeks, so this find will be an exclamation point on a long and successful career.
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