Praise continues for canine hero who saved girl

Prosecutor reviewing case

Courtesy photo Peanut, pictured above as a puppy at the Delta County Animal Shelter last year, alerted her owners to a 3-year-old lying in a ditch near their home in Rapid River a week ago when the temperature was 32 degrees.

RAPID RIVER — An abused dog that was rescued and brought back to health by the local animal shelter last year is being credited for saving the life of a child found outside during freezing temperatures on St. Patrick’s Day in Rapid River.

The hero’s name is “Peanut,” a hound-mix dog who was cared for by the Delta County Animal Shelter and later adopted by a family from Rapid River. One week ago, Peanut alerted her owners to a 3-year-old girl who was lying unclothed in a nearby field. The temperature was around 32 degrees that morning.

“About 11 a.m…. Peanut started going crazy at our house. She was running up and down the stairs, barking and yelping. She then went and got my husband, who was in the garage working on some projects, and alerted him that she wanted to go outside,” the dog owner stated in a letter to the shelter on March 17. The family requested to remain anonymous.

The story continues, telling what happened when the husband let Peanut outside.

“She went barreling into the field behind our house at full speed. My husband followed her and to his surprise, he found a naked, shivering 3-year-old girl curled up in a ball. He scooped her up, wrapped her in his sweatshirt, and brought her inside.”

The husband called 911 and the Delta County Sheriff’s Department and an ambulance were dispatched to the home.

“By the time the ambulance and police arrived, the little girl could only say one thing — ‘doggie,'” the wife stated in the letter to the shelter.

According to the sheriff’s department, an ambulance from UP Health Systems transported the girl to OSF St. Francis Hospital where medical personnel checked her out for any health issues and she was reported to be okay.

The family who found the child, credits Peanut’s “sixth sense” for saving the girl’s life.

“Words cannot express how grateful we are that we have Peanut in our lives and how amazing she is. She is a part of our family now and thanks to wonderful people like you at the shelter, she is alive. Without her, not only would she have been gone from this world, but the life of this little girl might have been taken as well,” the letter stated.

“Thanks to Peanut, a little girl’s life was saved,” the wife wrote, thanking the shelter for initially saving the life of Peanut who shelter employees knew as “Petunia.”

According to Sue Gartland, shelter manager, 4-month-old Petunia arrived at the animal shelter in April 2016 after being abused by its former owner, who was later convicted of animal cruelty.

“When Petunia came here, she had two broken legs, broken ribs, and a belly full of carpet,” explained Gartland.

The dog’s bones were in various stages of healing, indicating the animal had been abused during separate incidents over time. After several months of care and recovery at the shelter, Petunia was adopted in July 2016 by the family from Rapid River.

Gartland noted that Petunia’s health progress was posted on the shelter’s Facebook site that was read by many followers who considered the rescue dog a hero just for surviving.

“She was a hero to survive and she was a hero to rescue the girl,” Gartland commented. “We think it’s just remarkable for a dog to have the sense to rescue the girl… It was a miracle. That is certainly a very special dog.”

Gartland also expressed her gratitude for the family who adopted the dog.

“Much thanks goes to the owners for both saving an abused shelter dog and for helping this girl by trusting the instincts of the dog,” Gartland said.

The owners praised their dog for finding the girl before it was too late, describing Peanut as “a blessing” to the family.

“We love having her around. As you know, her background was so heartbreaking and we are so happy that we were able to take her into our home and give her the love and the family she deserves,” the letter stated. “Thanks to Peanut, a little girl’s life was saved today. She has been such a blessing to us, and now to others.”

After the sheriff’s department responded to the emergency last Friday, deputies went door to door to residences in the area in an attempt to contact the child’s parents, who were eventually located at a nearby home.

According to a news release from the sheriff’s department, “Further investigation unveiled unsafe and unsanitary living conditions at the residence. Child Protective Services was contacted and the found girl, along with another young female, were eventually removed from the residence.”

The two children were placed in foster care under the supervision of Child Protective Services.

Delta County Prosecutor Philip Strom is reviewing the case and possible charges.

“While this is an on-going investigation, we can report that the minor children are currently safe and receiving appropriate and nurturing supervision and treatment,” Strom stated in a news release.

The prosecutor is working with the Delta County Sheriff’s Department “to review and analyze potential criminal responsibility upon completion of the investigation.”

A petition and an amendment to the petition have been filed in Delta County Probate Court, which serves as the family division of Delta County Circuit Court. Hearings will take place in probate court involving the two juveniles and child protective proceedings.

Strom expressed appreciation for the sheriff’s department, the Department of Health and Human Services, and area residents, as well as the dog who found the girl.

“We are also grateful for all helpful citizens — canines included — and witnesses that have been cooperative or helpful during the investigation,” the prosecutor stated.

According to Delta County District Court, no charges have been filed in connection with the incident.

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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143, jlancour@dailypress.net