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Grif, the K9, Rescues Autistic Boy in Rural Tennessee

February 4, 2018

Note: Sgt. Bob Argraves, with the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department, tells the story of his K-9 Grif’s great rescue of a lost autistic boy.

Grif and I had been on many adventures together since his 2006 US arrival from the Czech Republic. He was just two when I first saw the Czech Shepherd in the crate at the airport, growling and not in the friendliest of moods. But as we trained together and got to know each other, Grif became more than my K-9 partner, he became family.

Whether searching for drugs or tracking criminals, Grif and I made a great team and were very successful together. But through all our accomplishments, the one that most stands out happened on a long, hot August day in 2010.

On that day, I knew without doubt that it wasn’t just Grif and me on the job, God was with us.

Grif and I had gotten a call to meet law enforcement, rescue workers and volunteers in rural Coffee County, TN to look for a nine year old, autistic boy that had gone missing. We had gathered at the grandmother’s house, where her grandson Kyle had been playing and last seen. It was during the heat of the day, around two in the afternoon. Southern heat can be especially scorching in August to people and animals alike. A long search would be hard on Grif with his thick, furry coat but the boy needed us to find him, and soon.

With Grif harnessed, he took the scent of the boy from the child’s blanket and then the search was on. We went around the house and then toward the pasture at the back of the property. Grif went under a barbed wire fence and continued trailing across the pasture until he came to another fence. But this time, instead of crossing the fence in front of us, he turned left and went under the fence that bordered the pasture’s left side. We trailed through a small growth of woods before coming to a creek. Grif didn’t stop to drink for he was on the job and on scent of the trail. He came back to the bank and started trailing along its side, back toward the direction of the grandmother’s house. After coming to another fence, Grif turned and went back to the creek where he had started to cross the first time out. He then crossed the creek and went to the other side, coming to an open field. He went left and followed the creek until it came to another fence. He then turned right and came back into the field and then to a road that would lead to the left of the grandmother’s house.

On and on we kept going while other rescue workers were searching in mass as well. Surely, with so many looking for the boy we would find him, I thought. But the clock kept ticking and still no Kyle. Grif kept going until he came to a road and stopped. We then searched more property with houses and out buildings and fields all around. At one point a woman came out and advised that there was a house with a pool up ahead and a couple of ponds close by as well. The deputies and rescue squad members checked there immediately, fearful Kyle might be in the water, but still no sign of him.

Afterward, I put Grif back on the trail at the last scent he was on. Together we tracked behind the houses and trailed through a strip of woods that led back to the creek we had earlier crossed. After crossing the creek, Grif returned to the grandmother’s house where it all started, without success.

The temperature was in the high nineties and Grif had been working now for an hour and a half and just couldn’t go any further. I put him back in the patrol car where he was in the air conditioning and had access to water.

My heart sank for I had such high hopes in finding Kyle. Being autistic, you can’t be sure if the boy is aware when danger is possibly close by, especially out in the country with ponds in its midst. I knew Grif had done his best and I hoped that someone else was having better luck than we were in finding Kyle.

The Sheriff was on the scene and we discussed the rescue effort. He advised he was trying to get the THP helicopter to come from Nashville to fly over the area. We knew that with every moment, there was a possibility that the boy could find himself in harm’s way. I also knew from my K-9 training that once the dog had exhausted the scent of his trail, he had performed his best and further attempts would most likely be futile.

But something deep in my spirit was telling me that Grif could find this lost boy. I told the sheriff I was going to let him try again. After getting him out of the patrol car I let Grif sniff the blanket once more and to my surprise, he took off crossing the road, turned and trailed in and out of the ditch until he came to a road turning left. He trailed down the center of the road until he went past a house on the right where there was a dog barking in the yard. There were also horses to our left. Grif ignored both distractions and kept trailing until he passed them and turned right. He then trailed back to the first road he was on. Turning left he crossed the bridge over the creek that he had earlier crossed in the wooded area behind the grandmother’s house. We tracked on through a cornfield, already combined, before turning left toward the creek once again.

Grif began to air scent, though his training would have him scenting the ground. His natural instinct had taken over and it was though his awareness to urgency had been heightened. He came back to the field, turned left, and went back yet again to the fence where stood a wood line and thicket between the fence and creek. After air scenting once more, Grif came back to the field, turned left and again continued trailing. He did this several times until he got to the far end of the field before he went and tried to get through the fence. Anticipation was rising within me but I wasn’t sure if Grif had the scent of the boy or had an animal caught his attention. One thing was for sure, Grif was determined. Before I could help him maneuver the fence, he went to the right about fifteen feet where he could successfully crawl under. Still holding the leash, I crawled under too. Once on the other side, Grif was pulling so hard that I tripped and fell crossing a dead log and thicket.

As I was getting back to my feet, the leashed slipped from my grasp but Grif kept going. By now, he was at a run. As I was standing up, I could see Grif running toward a person standing in the creek, and I just knew it had to be Kyle. I called to him, assuring him that Grif would not hurt him, but really not knowing for sure if he would understand my meaning while seeing a large dog running toward him. I just didn’t want Kyle to be afraid and I surely did not want him to run from Grif. With Grif getting to the boy first he did exactly as he’s been trained to do. He stopped in front of Kyle, touched his nose to his left shoulder and then laid down in the creek next to him, watching him until I arrived. As I got closer, I told Kyle who I was and that I was there to help.

After checking to make sure the boy was alright, I called the sheriff telling him that Grif had found Kyle safe and sound and asked that he bring the Gator to pick us up for we were some distance from the grandmother’s house. Within minutes the sheriff and rescue squad assistant chief arrived and I handed Kyle over the fence to them. I got hold of Grif’s leash and we crawled under the fence to catch up with the others. But then, unexpectedly and unashamedly, emotion overtook me and I bent to my knees. The Sheriff concerned that I may be in physical trouble, called out to me but I assured him I was fine, only emotional. He told me to take all the time I needed for indeed, it was very understandable. Within myself, I felt this overwhelming thankfulness knowing that God had been with me and Grif every step of the way. And without doubt, it was the Holy Spirit stirring within me that encouraged Grif and I to press on, not to give up even when by man’s logic the scent was gone, the trail cold.

I will never forget the joy in seeing the family reunited, rejoicing Kyle’s safe return as rescue workers cheered. And as for Grif, he got lots of hugs and loving too! Many praises went out to Grif that day, my partner, the hero!

Bob and Grif pic

Sgt. Bob Argraves and his K9, Grif. CCN photo by Rebekah Hurst

Update: Since this article was first published, Sgt. Argraves (now retired) was informed that during the period of time when he thought Grif had exhausted his search, family members, who had been notified of Kyle being lost while in an airport terminal waiting for a flight, began praying together for God to help him be found. After receiving this information, Sgt. Argraves has no doubt that it was the Holy Spirit that moved within him to have Grif begin his search again.

May 14, 2016 CCN Article by Sgt. Bob Argraves with Rebekah Hurst, Photo by Rebekah Hurst

Reposted with permission.

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