Dante Berry and the family's German Shepherd went missing at 8:30 p.m. (AEST) on Tuesday from the family's Deakin Avenue home in Mildura, northwestern Victoria, Australia. According to ABC.net
, the toddler wandered off in the company of the family dog. The Herald Sun
reports Dante went missing with nothing but a long-sleeved top and a diaper.
He was finally reunited with his mother at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 14 hours after he was reported missing. Police said the boy and the dog were fit and well after being out overnight.
Dante's mother, Bianca Chapman, raised an alarm after the pair disappeared from the family's front garden on Tuesday evening. The Daily Mail
reports that more than 100 police, firefighters and volunteers searched the bush for the missing pair and followed their foot and paw prints as they wandered over sandy scrub land.
reports volunteers, police helicopter, SES volunteers and dog squad searched the area overnight. Senior Sergeant Stephen Phelan told reporters they were found in bushland about 4 kilometers from home. He said: "Firstly we located his nappy and then saw some footprints and some dog prints. With the joint effort of the SES, CFA, the firefighters from DSE and some local volunteers, we conducted a line search and he's been found safe and well with his dog."
The two were helpful. They left a trail of paw and footprints on sandy ground that rescuers followed. The dog stayed by the boy's side all through and did not wander off alone.
Rescuers eventually found them in state forest woodland area about four kilometer from home.
The Daily Mail
reports that a diaper discarded next to a dirt track about two kilometers from the family's home was the vital clue that led senior constables Carol Rigby and Greg Lee to the pair. According to the Herald Sun
, Senior Sgt Phelan, said: "From our information he's renowned for pulling off his nappies."
The two were found when police officers heard a loud cry in knee-high scrub several meters from the track. Dante gave a loud cry after he tread on prickles. Rescuers say he was "stunned" and dehydrated when they found him.
According to Senior Constable Caroline Rigby, they first found Dasher who appeared from the bush, and later the toddler, who had prickles in his bare feet.
The Herald Sun
reports Rigby said: "(Dante) was very grubby. He had very grubby feet and legs and hands. He was more stunned and amazed than anything.There was a bit of rain overnight and some thunderstorms, which must have been a bit nerve-racking for the child, but he was in pretty good nick considering."
Another member of the rescue team, Department of Sustainability and Environment tracker Will Hannah, said tracks showed Dante and Dasher went round in circles all night. Hannah said: "You could just imagine what was going through his little mind - lost (and) dark. Lucky he did have his dog to keep him warm overnight."
Sen-Sgt Phelan said with the thunderstorms, Dante "picked one of the worst nights to go missing."
Indeed, Dante was lucky Dasher stayed by his side. While it appears the boy initially followed the wandering dog, the fact is that Dasher could have wandered off on his own or simply returned home alone when the rain and thunderstorm began. A boy of two would have been unable to keep up with a grown dog's pace. Dogs, unlike toddlers, are natural experts at finding their way. The dog took the decision to stay by the boy's side rather than go off alone.
Dante's grandfather Percy Chapman, thanked rescuers, saying emotionally, that he was "over the moon" about his grandson's rescue.
His aunt Mariah Chapman, said she did not know whether to "smile or cry" when the boy was found. She said, "I'm just relieved."
The toddler was treated at the hospital for dehydration and mild hypothermia.
reports the family said in a statement: "We are extremely relieved that he has been located safe and appears to be happy. We are happy, but not surprised, to learn that his faithful dog, Dasher, stayed by his side and was also found safe and well."
Police say they will investigate what led to the boy and dog wandering off. The Herald Sun
, however, reports that Dante's grandfather said Dante and Dasher had disappeared before, but had never traveled this far.