After two-year-old William Odom disappeared from his rural home in Mississippi, a frantic search began. William was wearing nothing but a diaper and further complicating matters was the fact that he was thought to be autistic – meaning that he might not respond to rescuers, even if they were within yards of him.
William’s family home lay on Pete Hickman Road on the outskirts of Saucier, a small town in Harrison County, Mississippi with a population of some 1,300 people. It is in a wooded area and is close to a river and a creek – and the search party was all too aware of the potential dangers that faced the child, who was described as being “non-verbal.”
Indeed, the rural setting of the home dramatically increased the chances that William might be injured – perhaps even fatally. In the wild surroundings, he might by attacked by stray dogs or other animals and with a creek and the Biloxi river close by, he could easily fall in and drown.
In the meantime, though, it seemed like there was no trace of him. That was until investigators found paw prints leading into the woods. It would be a race against time to find the toddler.
“Our greatest concern was [that] he was two years old, and he was lost,” Harrison County Sheriff Troy Peterson told the The Sun Herald. “With the autism, he couldn’t speak, he couldn’t hear us. He couldn’t answer us. He couldn’t make noises so we could hear him. We didn’t know if he was going to drown in the creek or [if he had] come in contact with an animal that would hurt him or a stray dog.”
William had last been seen asleep in his bed at 6:30 a.m. when his father, Anthony Odom, left for work, leaving the boy’s mother, Chelsea Noble, in the house. William’s absence was discovered when Chelsea woke up to find the door wide open and William gone. Chelsea soon alerted Eary Murray, William’s great uncle, as to what had happened.
Eary searched his yard and the nearby river and woods but failed to find the child. It was then that the family contacted the emergency services at around 10:30 a.m. Some 40 people would join the resulting search, assisted by trained dog units and a helicopter.
The group’s greatest anxiety was that William would make his way to the creek – and he had been there before with his great uncle. “I have walked down there with the children myself, just for exercise.” Eary explained to The Sun Herald. “My first thought was that he went off into the woods or in the river by himself…”
Due to the significant number of bodies of water in the vicinity, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks and Gulf Coast Search and Rescue also took part in the search. After several hours, though, they still hadn’t found William.
However, at 3:15 p.m., around eight hours after William was thought to have gone missing, someone spotted something. Ten-year-old Blake Carroll was on his way home from Saucier Elementary school. After getting down from the school bus, he heard a horn honking – and Blake decided to investigate. What he found would end the search for William.
The source of the noise was a parked, white Nissan Frontier truck, that was a five-minute walk from where the search party was looking for William. A dog was prowling around the vehicle and scratching at its exterior. And inside the truck was William.
Blake sought help and soon brought his uncle to the scene. The man forced open the truck’s window and looked in – and he found William alive and well inside the vehicle.
And the animal pacing around the truck was none other than the family dog Jezebel. She had stayed with William during his trek through the woods – and seemed to have made sure that he came to no harm. The paw prints that led from the house and into the woods belonged not to a predator but to Jezebel.
County Sheriff Troy Peterson noted how the pair had stuck together. “[William] probably walked 3 or 4 miles through the woods, and his dog stayed right by his side until he got in the car,” the sheriff told The Sun Herald. “With the grid we were searching, it would have been another hour and a half before we searched the area where he was found.”
Speaking to the Kansas City Star he said, “Every time we found his footprint, we found the dog footprint right beside him. So the dog traveled with him all day. When the little boy was found, the dog was still circling the truck and scratching on the truck.”
After a tearful reunion with her son, Noble spoke to People about the boy’s bond with the family dog. “Ever since she was a puppy, they’ve been really close,” she said. “He loves feeding her. He loves helping bathe her. That’s his dog. After this, I believe there’s no changing that part. She saved my baby. Her and that little boy saved his life.”
After what must have been an epic journey for a two-year-old, William had apparently climbed inside the truck and fallen fast asleep. He was treated for scratches and heat exhaustion, but he was otherwise in good health.
Blake Carroll, the boy who had found William, was hailed as a hero. He was treated to burgers and chocolate cake by his school principal, and he was praised for showing “great responsibility.”
However, while William was safe, his mother Chelsea was in trouble – and she would soon be separated from William again. This was the second time that William had been reported missing from the family home. Strangely, the truck that he had been found in was only 200 yards from the spot where he had been discovered on the previous occasion that he went missing.
Following two disappearances, it was decided that Noble was at fault for failing to supervise her son. She was charged with misdemeanor child neglect, placed in custody and put on a bail of $1,500 – and all her children were taken into care by child protection services.
And if Jezbel’s heroic ation isn’t enough proof that dogs really can save the day, then perhaps David Kenney’s story will complete the picture. You see, Jezebel isn’t the only pooch to have come to the rescue in a desperate emergency. When Kenney’s dog Leala sensed something was wrong, the dog began to bark frantically. And without his canine’s quick reaction, David Kenney may never have learned of the nightmarish situation his little nine-year-old was in.
The Kenneys hail from the town of Glenreagh in New South Wales, Australia. The family consists of mom Lisa, dad David and their children Lani and Alexander. They also have a pet Staffordshire bull terrier named Leala.
The family have owned the dog since 2008, and the adorable pooch goes most places with them. So, when the Kenneys went to visit some friends in nearby Nana Glen in September 2015, naturally Leala went too. But for some reason, the dog began acting strangely.
While the family hung out with their friends inside the house, Leala suddenly barged in from outside. Uncharacteristically, the staffy frantically barked for attention, her fur drenched with water. Surprised at her erratic behavior, then, everyone stopped in their tracks.
On instinct, dad David decided to follow Leala back outside, and the nine-year-old dog led the doting father to a nearby dam. Only, once there, David set eyes on what is surely every parent’s worst nightmare.
“It was what I was wishing not to see,” David told The Coffs Coast Advocate in 2015. “It was a mixture of disbelief, horror and sadness, it was indescribable really, but then everything was a blur.”
Leala had directed them to the lifeless body of two-year-old Alexander, who was floating face down in the water. Fortunately, David and his friends retrieved the youngster from the dam and began performing CPR. Then, almost half an hour later, paramedics arrived on the scene.
Over at the house, Alexander’s mother Lisa had no idea about her son’s condition – until she heard the whirring sirens of the arriving ambulance. “I didn’t think it was my kid, I didn’t think it had anything to do with us and then I came to [see] a helicopter in the sky and the whole place just alive with police and ambulances and my son just lying there completely comatose,” she recalled to The Coffs Coast Advocate.
The helicopter rushed little Alexander to the Lady Cilento Hospital in Brisbane. And only then did the paramedics warn his parents to expect the worst. “They pulled me aside and told me this is as bad as it gets, there’s not a lot of hope, you should prepare for the worst possible outcome,” Lisa told The Coffs Coast Advocate.
Yes, doctors told Lisa and David that Alexander might not pull through. And if he did, he would likely have some kind of brain damage. “From a parent’s point of view, it doesn’t get much worse,” Lisa said in her interview with The Coffs Coast Advocate.
But, just two days after doctors admitted him to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Alexander shocked everyone. In fact, he was doing well after they’d brought him out of an induced coma. Amazingly, he soon began to breath on his own and could even speak to his worried parents.
What’s more, David and Lisa were happy to see that Alexander was still their same, loving little boy. “The thing that I think got everyone was that he wanted kisses, that was the first thing he wanted – he wanted kisses off us,” David told The Coffs Coast Advocate. “It was quite miraculous that he came back so soon and so clear and fine and unchanged.”
Alexander’s inspirational recovery shocked even his doctors. Still, medical professionals said that if it wasn’t for David and his friends’ quick thinking to perform CPR, the outcome could have been very different. Thankfully, their actions provided the little boy with enough oxygen to prevent any major brain damage.
But while doctors hailed him as a hero, David laid the credit elsewhere. According to him, it was Leala’s instinct that had saved Alexander’s life. If she hadn’t alerted everyone to the situation, he said, who knows how long the toddler could have been left in the water.
“Without obviously the dog and my two mates, he would be…” the dad-of-two told The Coffs Coast Advocate, stopping himself as he reflected on the horrific reality of what could have been. “Everything that went along in its little series, what happened was just flawless with maybe a little bit of luck chucked in.”
Some dog experts have said that a canine’s instinct to protect children comes from a built-in pack mentality. Indeed, these experts agree that dogs have a clear idea of who their human families are because of the social structures dogs are used to in the wild. Therefore, dogs will go out of their way to protect one of their pack members.
It’s true, however, that some people consider Staffordshire bull terriers to be dangerous dogs. But in the English county of Staffordshire, where the dogs are from, people believe they have soft natures. Nicknamed the “nanny dog,” the canines have a reputation here for looking after kids and playing with them. So perhaps this latter stereotype rings true in Leala.
As for Alexander, he soon returned to his normal self. In fact, after the medical team released him from the hospital, he quickly began causing mischief. And despite his traumatic ordeal, his parents still had to discipline him as usual.
“You don’t want to rouse on him because he’s had a pretty rough time, but you’re blessed to have him doing these little ratbag things, being a little monkey and getting into trouble,” dad David explained to The Coffs Coast Advocate. “But you know, he’s cheated death, but he can’t get away with murder, you gotta do what you’ve got to do.”
So it’s safe to say that Leala went far beyond the call of companionship for her family. After all, if she hadn’t alerted everyone to Alexander’s plight, the spritely little boy might not have made it. As mom Lisa put it on Facebook in 2015, “Without her we wouldn’t have our little boy with us today.”