ROCKINGHAM — A Richmond County mother has a warm heart because of a cold nose.
Aubrie Perotta said she was grateful the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office decided to get a bloodhound — the K-9 that found her son after he wandered into the woods Wednesday afternoon.
Perotta said she was at a friend’s house when she got the call that 8-year-old Kyler — who is severely autistic and nonverbal and has other medical issues — had gone missing.
Kyler had been staying with Perotta’s ex-girlfriend on Midway Road, who told the mother he had wanted to outside.
“She went in to get a jacket and came out and he was gone,” she told the Daily Journal on Thursday.
When she arrived at the scene, Perotta says she was irate when she saw a group of deputies and asked, “Why are all of you standing around doing nothing? Why aren’t you all out there looking?”
“I thought I’d never see him again,” she said, recalling the news story from November when the 9-year-old autistic nephew of ex-NBA player Marcus Camby was found dead in a lake.
She then found out that Liz was on the trail.
Deputy Paul McDole, Liz’s handler, said the sheriff’s office was contacted around 3:09 p.m. He was off duty and said he was called in once the other deputies on the scene realized the boy was not in the home.
Thirty-five minutes had passed by the time McDole and Liz took the trail, using a pillow case to get Kyler’s scent.
“We were on track for roughly 20 minutes and went almost three-quarters of a mile,” he said. Kyler had been missing for about an hour.
Perotta said she had gone to a friend’s house and they had started looking, each seeing signs of hope — a cross and a rainbow — before hearing the relieving news.
McDole said they found Kyler in the woods about two houses down, adding it appeared he had gotten into water because he had taken off his school clothes and they were wet. He was wearing nothing but a white undershirt and was carrying his wet clothes, the deputy added.
“He was startled with the dog at first, but once we got talking to him, he walked right out with us,” McDole said.
Perotta said that teachers and parents of special-needs children don’t get the credit they deserve, adding that Kyler’s Cordova School teacher, Laura Grier, came out during the search.
“It was kind of surprising to have that kind of support for the community,” she said.
This isn’t the first time Kyler made her nervous. Perotta said her son has run across parking lots and streets, coming close to getting hit several times. He even recently went missing at Walmart, and Perotta said the employees there acted quickly to help find him.
“It really makes me happy that Richmond County has it going on…in a lot of places people don’t give it credit for,” she said.
Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_toler.