Haunted by a Mystery Hero Dog


Have you ever read a short little news piece – a bit of journalistic fluff – that you nevertheless couldn’t stop thinking about? Maybe there’s something that just doesn’t make sense, or there’s a loose end in the story – for some reason, it’s just keeping you up at night. Most of the ones that haunt me, as you might imagine, have a dog in them somewhere.

I’ve got one such story in my head. Let’s see if it bothers you as much as it does me.

This piece, headlined “Missing Boy Found Wandering St. Louis Streets With Protective Stray Pit Bull by His Side,” was being circulated on Facebook, and many of my friends were sharing it. The People magazine story was generated by a story aired on the 6:00 pm television news on October 1 by a Fox affiliate in St. Louis.

According to the Fox news piece, a two-year-old boy was spotted wandering on a St. Louis sidewalk by a woman who was walking her dogs early in the morning of October 1. The boy was wearing pajamas, but no shoes, and he was unaccompanied – at least, unaccompanied by any humans. He was toddling around in the company of a large pit bull-type dog.

The woman, who wished to be anonymous, was interviewed on camera (with her face obscured) by the Fox news crew. She said she knocked on doors all up and down the street, keeping the toddler and his pit bull friend in view, hoping to find someone who recognized or was missing the child. She also posted an alert to a neighborhood social media web site – and somehow, it was there that the father of the child recognized his son, and ran to meet the anonymous Samaritan and recover his son.

It’s unclear from the story whether the father knew his son was missing from the home before he saw the post. This is but one of the missing details of this story that are bothering me.

In the news clip, police officers are seen holding the toddler and speaking to the boy’s father, but the news piece doesn’t mention whether the anonymous woman, the boy’s father, or someone else had called the police, or what other role the police may have played in the story. That’s also a mystery.

But the biggest mystery of all is the dog. Despite the dog’s major presence in all the headlines of all the iterations of the article, which was picked up by dozens and dozens of news sources across the globe, the fact that the dog who stayed by the toddler’s side, reportedly for hours, was a stray dog – not the family’s own protective dog, but a dog who was unknown to the family – got very little attention. Hero of the story, presumably kept the boy safe – a stray dog. Wow!

And then this, a couple of suspicious little throwaway lines at the end of the piece. One of the news anchors who introduced the taped segment says at the very end of the segment, over film of a policeman putting the pit bull, now on a leash, into a police car, “By the way, the little guy there, Taylor, says he really liked the pit bull who was like a guard for him; he kept saying, ‘Puppy!’ while he was being reunited. We’re told St. Louis city police might be adopting that guy.” Awww! A double happy ending?

Well, after a day of that little news piece just driving me nuts, I wanted to know: Who was that hero dog? And is some St. Louis policeman really going to adopt him?

So I reached out to the St Louis Metropolitan Police Department; they actually have a Facebook page that is monitored by media relations people. I sent them a link to the People magazine story and asked, “Do you have more information about this story, or the dog, that I could share with my readership?” The answer came in just a couple of hours. “The dog ran from the officers and animal regulation was notified.”

So, despite the filmed footage of the leashed dog cooperatively hopping into the back of a police cruiser . . . we’re to believe he “ran from the officers.” I’ll never stop wondering about that dog.


  1. The way this story is written makes me wonder how much was fabricated and why. Leashed dog = running away from officers? Too weird. Plainly either the Leashed picture was a lie or they don’t want to say what happened. The old “your dog ran away” story.

  2. I find this very curious. I certainly hope that dog is ok. Funny the police and the story have a different explanation as to what happened to that hero dog. If you should find out the answer to this mystery, I hope you’ll let us know.

  3. While St. Louis County and City don’t have BSL in place, many of the surrounding areas ban dogs like this one (or think they are banning them). Unless this story was truly in St. Louis proper, the dog may have been in a BSL jurisdiction and sent to live on the farm, as our grandparents used to say.

  4. Or maybe the police department wanted you to think he ran away and one of the officers was really going to adopt him, keeping it quiet because of the BSL. (if there was one there) Yup, this will now weigh on my mind as well…….

    • That is my opinion, too!! The police may have found out more about this dog and his living conditions and decided to keep him. Many police officers have big hearts for dogs. This story would shut down the original owners trying to get him back.

  5. You just hit one of my hot buttons. I am doing pro bono work for a couple of clients who have run afoul of the most onerous, inhumane city ordinance regulating “dangerous dogs” and “potentially dangerous dogs” you could possibly imagine. I tell people on all of the neighborhood social media sites that private rescue and adoption is always better than calling the police or animal control. Animal control should be a LAST RESORT. Our shelter is high kill, and the city makes money off of fining people for anything and everything related to their pets. If your dog is let out of your yard by a malicious neighbor it is subject not only to fines but to euthanasia, even if it never touches another dog or person, if you neighbor says the dog barked or “frightened” her, even with no evidence. I have an acquaintance whose neighbor turned her in for pet sitting one weekend–she went one dog over the two pet limit when she kept her daughter’s dog with her for the weekend and so she was fined $200. She has a large yard. This was just a malicious neighbor. Neither the police nor animal control in this community can be trusted to be humane, and the city is greedy for the fines and boarding fees at the shelter. If you care, you should act through informal networks. That is just the way it is.

  6. Nancy, can you use your journalist credentials to investigate further? You don’t have to accept this obviously incoherent story. If you find that a police officer did adopt the dog and has good reasons for not wanting publicity, you could promise that upon satisfying you of the true outcome, you will restrict your public report to “verified good outcome.” These are small things to a police department, and it is important that they come to understand that taken in bulk they shape the public’s judgement of and trust (or distrust) for police.

    • I agree that it may have been difficult to reveal the truth because of the anti pitbull regulations in that area and it is also quite possible that the law enforcement agency has a rule that its officers can’t benefit from their position via gifts, etc. I worked for a social service/law enforcement state agency and we weren’t allowed to do many things that we did do, due to humanitarian reasons, but that we would not have talked publicly about. Adopting unwanted and homeless animals in exigent circumstances was definitely in that category, and how quite a few of my critters were acquired.

  7. Has anyone ever considered this wonderful dog was heaven sent. There are many mysteries that occur in this world that cannot be explained. I truly believe this intelligent creature was sent to protect this vulnerable sweet little 2 year old boy. Angles come in many different forms.

  8. Nancy, please keep digging. If the animal is safe justlet us know. If the owner does not want to run afoul of restrictions and local ordiances we don ‘t have to know details but we do want to know if it is safe or put to “sleep.”

  9. After reading this article I am wondering what may have happened to this this pup 😢 stories like this always linger in our hearts and our thoughts! Prayers for the safety of this pup but can’t stop the feeling this pup was probably murdered😭

  10. Unfortunately, this is so true of 99% of news stories in the 21st century. Much of what is reported is just made up. to suit the news release and gain readership. I grew up when TRUTH was one of the most important principles in life, whether a national news story, or what happened to your brother’s baseball. We will continue to suffer until society returns to a more just, equitable and fair basis.

  11. Pit bulls originally were bred and kept as nannies! They can be wonderfully loyal kind protective of children as your article suggests. Some of the breed became “fighting dogs” due to generations of abuse by cruel owners. Nobody should blame or fear the dogs… just the sub-humans. Punish them, all of them.

  12. Once we were camping with several family members when we realized my 3-year-old niece had wandered off. Of course we all ran off in different directions looking for her. She was soon found, with our German Shepherd Dog walking beside her. He had never met her before that weekend.