- (Photo: Reuters)
A missing boy huddled with dogs to keep warm in freezing conditions as 200 people joined in a frantic search for him when he went missing on Tuesday night.
Six-year-old Ryle Smith from Seneca, Mo wandered off from his family's property while playing with their pet dogs, Baxter and Bella, on Tuesday afternoon at about 4.30 p.m. local time.
Temperatures in the area dropped to the low 20s that evening, and his family and authorities launched a massive search involving between 150 and 200 people who responded to the alert to help find the young boy before night set in.
Ryle's parents reported that their son was not even wearing socks or shoes when he went missing by following the dogs into the woods by their family home, according to ABC News.
A five hour search finally ended when Ryle was found about a mile away from the family home huddled under a bush with the two dogs.
"I wasn't scared, I was just really cold," Ryle told the Jopling Globe. "Bella was my guard dog and Baxter was next to me the whole time."
It is believed that Ryle went missing at about 4.30 p.m. but was not reported missing until nearly 6 p.m. However, once officials were notified a frantic search was launched including neighbors, as well as professional responders from the Newtown County Sheriff's Office, Joplin, Seneca and Redings Mill fire departments, and the Newtown County Rescue and Recovery team.
Newtown County Sheriff Ken Copeland told ABC News, "We were real concerned about the weather. It was calling for sleet and snow later that night so we were really concerned."
"He was wearing no socks or shoes," Ryle's mother Holly said to ABC News. "His feet were so cold that it was the early stages of frostbite, he hadn't eaten dinner, he was exhausted and hungry."
Paramedics found Ryle huddled up with Baxter, who is a large Boxer, and Bella, who is a Labrador mix.
According to the paramedics, the dogs were lying on top of the boy to keep him warm, and his upper body was kept relatively warm. Although his bare feet were very cold with his mother describing them as being in the "early stages of frostbite."
Holly Smith expressed her amaze and thanks at the response from her local community to find her son: "Complete strangers drove from surrounding cities and showed up at our doorstop. It was incredible. Most people have told me they have never seen a response like that."
Newtown County Sheriff Ken Copeland told ABC News. "Here in Joplin we went through the terrible tornado. To see all these agencies and the community come together… it went really well."