Missing Autistic Toddler Found Safe In Care Of Family Dogs

A Florida family experienced their worst nightmare when their autistic child, 3-year-old Marshal Butler, suddenly disappeared from the family home.

“We were panicked,” the boy’s aunt, Kayla Stewart, told WJHG/WECP recalling how “all sorts of worst-case scenarios [were] running through their heads.”

The terrifying situation was complicated by the fact that Marshal, being autistic, can’t speak or communicate, leaving his family even more frantic with worry. The only small measure of comfort was that the boy disappeared with Nala and Buckwheat, two loyal family dogs.

Regardless, the toddler’s disappearance triggered a desperate search involving all of the neighbors, who quickly split up and canvassed the area, and the sheriff’s department, which posted about the case on Facebook.

“The child was last seen wearing only a diaper,” officers wrote on Facebook, adding that they’d be bringing in K9 teams to assist with the search. “Through the whole process you’re terrified,” Stewart remembered.


Posted by Walton County Sheriff, Michael A. Adkinson, Jr. on Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Thankfully, Marshal was found safe and sound by a neighbor later that afternoon. Carol Shelton found the boy — covered in dirt but otherwise unharmed — about a mile from his house, with both Nala and Buckwheat standing guard by his side. “Both of his dogs were right there with him,” the neighbor recalled. “[We’re] thankful that the pups kind of guided him along I guess they kept him safe.”

Marshal’s family was overjoyed to have their sweet boy back home safe, and also immensely proud of their loyal fur family. “They’re doing their job,” the boy’s grateful mother said.

A safe return home.The dog was found still with the child. ♥️Scene cleared.

Posted by Walton County Sheriff, Michael A. Adkinson, Jr. on Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Facebook was equally impressed by the dogs’ refusal to leave their little human’s side. “Thank God he is safe, & I sure hope they fix that dog an awesome dinner tonight!” one user wrote. We couldn’t agree more!

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J. Swanson is a writer, traveler, and animal-enthusiast based in Seattle, an appropriately pet-crazed city where dog or cat ownership even outweighs the number of kids. When the weather permits, she likes to get outside and explore the rest of the Pacific Northwest, always with a coffee in hand.
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