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Dogs Help Lost Boy Stay Alive

February 18, 2000

RIPLEY, Tenn. (AP) _ A 4-year-old boy wearing only a plastic jacket managed to survive a cold, rainy night along the Mississippi River, huddling with two dogs to keep warm.

Dewayne Johnson was found Thursday morning less than a mile from his home northeast of Memphis. About 100 volunteers had searched unsuccessfully into the night after he was reported missing about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

``We asked him, ‘How’d you keep warm?’ and he said, ’My dogs kept me warm,‴ said rescue squad member Eugene Coffee.

``He said he’d just wandered off too far and couldn’t find his way home. I’ve never seen a 4-year-old that tough.″

Guided by a helicopter pilot who spotted the boy from the air, rescuers reached the boy at about 11:30 a.m., huddled between his dog, Rosie, and a neighbor’s dog, Smokie. Temperatures had dropped into the upper 30s during the night.

``Those dogs didn’t even bark,″ Lauderdale County Rescue Squad leader Ronnie Moore said. ``I guess they thought they were protecting him.″

He was carried out on horseback to a standing ovation.

``This was really an act of the good Lord being with him,″ Moore said.

Dewayne was checked for exposure at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Lauderdale and released.

He and two siblings were taken into custody by the state Department of Children’s Services. Agency spokeswoman Ava Philson said she could not say why.

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