A Wisconsin toddler and her tan-brown cocker spaniel mix, Peanut, helped each other survive 24 hours lost in the woods. They went without food or water and narrowly missed a close encounter with a wolf, but they returned together, unharmed, mere feet from the spot they originally disappeared from.
The leaders of the search-and-rescue team called their safe return “a miracle.”
Three-year-old Abigail Ladwig was reported missing from her family’s home in Winter, Wisconsin, on the evening of Aug. 9 after wandering out of her front yard. The County Sheriff’s Office posted the little girl’s description on Facebook in the hopes that someone would spot her.
The little girl was last seen following the family dog, the post continued. She was wearing a black shirt patterned with yellow flowers, and no shoes.
Abby’s mother, Lisa Koch, shared a Facebook post of her own, letting people know what to expect. “… peanut can be aggressive,” she said, “so please watch out for her. Abby is very shy and shuts down fast and won’t say nothing if she is scared, so please keep that in mind.”
Keeping an eye out for the spaniel, the worried mom implored, may lead to the whereabouts of her daughter.
Hundreds of comments poured in from concerned netizens praying for the toddler’s safe return. In Winter, a search-and-rescue team comprising hundreds of volunteers, some having driven from hours away, and local law enforcement using helicopters and canines spent the next 24 hours searching for Abby and her four-legged companion.
“With the terrain and the brush there, it was very difficult to conduct the searches,” Sawyer County Sheriff Doug Mrotek told CBS Minnesota. “At times you literally had to crawl under or through the brush.”
But after an intense 24-hour search, Abby and Peanut reappeared without prompting.
Neighbor Jerome Frederick had been unable to join the search for Abby, owing to an injured knee. He became an unexpectedly pivotal player, however, when he spied a familiar figure from his porch. “I was sitting here reading a book and watching the traffic,” he recalled, “and that little dog had come running out.
“It just dawned on me,” he continued, citing a “rollercoaster of emotions.” The little girl was right behind her faithful friend.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, updating their followers on Abby’s safe return, the toddler had sustained minor scratches, insect bites, was dehydrated, and told the authorities that she had seen a wolf in the woods. But miraculously, she did not sustain any serious injuries.
Abby climbed Frederick’s porch steps. Without crying, she simply asked for her mother.
“In 77 years, I have never had a feeling like that,” Frederick recalled, speaking to KBJR-6. “I was shocked, happy … That kid has got to be tough as shoe leather.” The neighbor and his wife wrapped Abigail in a blanket, gave her some water, and alerted search-and-rescue personnel that she was home safe.
“She’s happy, she’s very tired, very sore,” said Abby’s aunt, Johnna Ludack, who participated in the search effort. “She said she followed the dog, she was in the woods and slept in the woods.”
Sheriff Mrotek, summarizing, added, “It gives all of us in Sawyer County a great day today.”
Peanut, Abby’s loyal protector, came away from the pair’s 24-hour ordeal a little the worse for wear; it quickly transpired that the cocker spaniel mix was in pain and having trouble walking. Abby’s aunt opened a GoFundMe account to raise money for the heroic pup’s medical care.
On Aug. 12, Ludack posted an update. “Peanut was taken to the vet today and she has Lyme disease [and] a torn ligament in her leg,” she explained. “X-rays still need to be done to figure out a treatment plan. She is a fighter!”
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