Dog helps rescuers find missing Clover boy, 2

Cue the Hollywood ending: dog helps searchers find missing boy

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comNovember 29, 2012 

— It was the kind of story Richard and Carmen Myrick expected to find in a Hollywood production: Their son was missing for hours. Search dogs and helicopters combed the woods. A dog was heroic.

A true story with a happy ending.

Two-year-old Peyton Myrick was missing for more than four hours from his grandparents’ Clover home Wednesday night. Two communities rallied together and formed search parties, while officials with the York County Sheriff’s Office, S.C. Department of Natural Resources and State Law Enforcement Division mounted a search by ground and air.

Finally, neighbors found Peyton sleeping on top of his coat about 60 yards from a barn that stands less than a mile from his grandparents’ home. At his side was Ashepoo, a 2-year-old black and white Australian shepherd.

A day after Peyton’s disappearance nearly shook his family to its core, the boy seemed oblivious as to why he and Ashepoo were, in the words of his grandmother, “famous.”

He played the piano and cheered on his favorite team, the Clemson Tigers. He and Ashepoo both rolled around on the floor, before Peyton tinkered with a grandfather clock and his grandfather’s wooden figurines.

“It’s not fazed him nearly as bad as it has us,” Richard Myrick said Thursday.

Richard Myrick, a history teacher at Clover Middle School, and Carmen Myrick, a radiology technician, took Peyton to his grandfather’s house while his little brother, Nash, visited a pediatrician in Gastonia, N.C.

Ernest Myrick and his grandson planned to look at Christmas trees on Wednesday. Ernest Myrick went into his garage to put air in his tractor’s tires. When he prepared to back it out – “a routine done 100 times” – he noticed that his energetic grandson and Ashepoo were gone.

According to a York County Sheriff’s report, Ernest Myrick drove around the property – a heavily wooded area with hills, a pond and a tree farm – searching for his grandson.

Soon, a broader search began.

Deputies and a K9 unit searched the house and property. The news hit Facebook quickly, Richard Myrick said. People came from Clover and nearby Blacksburg to form search parties. A helicopter donated by SLED used infrared technology to search the woods.

“It’s something that happens to other people, not you,” Richard Myrick thought.

When Carmen Myrick found out, she said she was “shell-shocked.”

“You never think it’s going to happen to you,” she said. “You see it on TV. As a parent, you try to do everything in your power to protect your kids.”

But children such as Peyton, who called his time in the woods an “adventure,” aren’t easy to keep an eye on.

“He’s fast,” Carmen Myrick said. “If the dog was going to take off,” Peyton was going to follow.

As the sun went down Wednesday, the search continued. Richard Myrick estimates close to 400 people showed up to help.

“That’s our No. 1 thing – to thank everybody. Two communities really rallied around this boy that so many of them have never met,” he said.

Finally, neighbors who noticed Ashepoo walking back and forth from the barn several times alerted the search party, asking them if the boy could possibly be with a black and white dog.

Peyton’s aunt ran toward the barn and found him sleeping on his coat.

“It could’ve been a lot worse,” Carmen Myrick said.

Peyton’s parents guess he simply walked away from his grandparents’ house, down the dirt road that leads past a pond and found a spot to sleep near the barn, behind a brick house.

“I never wanted him to fear the woods,” Richard Myrick said. “I guess I wish he had more of a healthy respect for it.”

The family thinks that Ashepoo saw people searching for Peyton and kept walking to get their attention.

“She stayed with him the entire time,” Richard Myrick said. “It sounds Hollywood-esque. It sounds like a movie script.”

“It sounded like a ‘Lassie’ movie,” Elaine Myrick added.

When Peyton returned home, he sat at the kitchen table and ate chocolate. Even then, Ashepoo was at his side. Then Peyton, fresh off his “adventure,” ran to check on his brother, sick with the flu.

Ashepoo, named for the Ashepoo River that flows south of Walterboro, treats Peyton like her own, the boy’s family said. She became part of the Myrick clan when Ernest and Elaine Myrick bought her from a woman who raises Australian shepherds in Georgia.

After telling her they wanted a dog that was good with grandchildren, she recommended they take Ashepoo, calling her the “most sociable,” Ernest Myrick said while capturing Ashepoo’s gaze with doggy snacks.

All of Ernest and Elaine Myrick’s dogs have been named after state rivers, including Santee and Cooper.

“She’s the most famous dog in Clover,” Elaine Myrick said.

“She’s the smartest,” Ernest Myrick added. “She’s always mothered the grandchildren. She treats them like they’re her babies.”

Ashepoo, 2 years old herself, has known Peyton all his life.

Taking his son into his hands and planting a kiss on his cheek, Richard Myrick said, “They’re perfect for each other.”

Jonathan McFadden (803) 329-4082

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