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Lifestyle & Human Interest

Missing Toddler with Autism Found Safe, Being Protected by Family Dogs

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There’s nothing like losing track of your child to send your heart into your throat. On the morning of June 3, that’s exactly what one family from Ponce de Leon, Florida, experienced.

Marshal Butler, just 3 years old, has autism and is non-verbal. When he went missing, his family was quick to call police and get a search started.

“Walton County Sheriff’s Office is in the area of Morrison Springs Road in Ponce De Leon searching for a missing 3-year-old boy with autism,” the Walton County Sheriff, Michael A. Adkinson, Jr. Facebook page shared.

“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.”

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“Walton Correctional Institution has been asked to bring their K9 Teams to assist.”

Thankfully, Marshal wasn’t technically alone. He’d wandered off in the company of the family’s two dogs, Buckwheat and Nala.

While no one knows exactly what transpired during the boy’s disappearance, neighbor Carol Shelton spotted the boy and his two faithful companions several hours after the search began.

The little boy was grubby from playing in the dirt and was found a mile away from his home near a river, but he had no injuries — perhaps thanks to Buckwheat and Nala.

“They’re doing their job,” Butler’s mother, speaking of the dogs, told WJHG-TV.

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“Both of his dogs were right there with him,” a neighbor explained. “[We’re] thankful that the pups kind of guided him along I guess they kept him safe.”

In the comments on the announcement that the boy was found, the sheriff’s account commented, “We don’t deserve dogs.”

Kayla Stewart, Butler’s aunt, said that before finding the boy, they were panicking, with “all sorts of worst-case scenarios … running through their heads.”

“Through the whole process you’re terrified,” she added.

Thanks to the community pulling together, the boy was found before he could get into any serious trouble. And thanks to Buckwheat and Nala, Marshal had two furry angels keeping him company.

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking