Michigan toddler missing for three hours, found with dog by his side

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Michigan parents have their dog to thank for leaving a trail of paw prints that police used to track their toddler who went missing for several hours.

Van Buren County police returned 2-year-old Princeton Peake after he escaped his locked home in Paw Paw early Wednesday. Princeton's father, Domonic Peake, says he was panicked while searching the property surrounded by cornfields, woods and swamps. Peake only found his son's sippy cup.

“Ran down the drive, but I actually came across his footprints leading into the field. So, I immediately called the police. They had to try and calm me down when I made the call. I was crying, I could barely talk,” he said.

WNEM reports that the boy was missing for more than three hours and traveled nearly a mile from his home.

Sheriff Daniel Abbott says the family's pit-boxer mix dog named Apollo may have saved Princeton's life by staying by his side. Police followed Apollo's tracks to find Princeton in a muddy, wooded area up to a mile away. The toddler was found without his diaper, covered in scratches and bug bites.

Abbott had dog food and treats for Apollo delivered to the Peake home Friday. 

Dominic said they had locks installed at the home so the adventurous toddler doesn't find his way out again.

“It's definitely a lot better morning than it was yesterday. It was scary,” Dominic told WNEM.

Abbott said it was a good thing the dog and Princeton have such a tight bond because the dog was a key part of the search.

“The little guy, once in a while, we'd see his footprints, but the dog was sinking in and if it wasn't for that dog it could have been a lot worse. We're fortunate with the dog being with him we could track where the dog was walking,” Abbott said.

Dominic said he got the dog as a puppy so Princeton could grow up with a friend. Now they have a bond for life.

“I owe it to my dog, because if my son was alone who knows what could have happened,” Peake said.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report