Wright Words: Aided by angels, 2-year-old boy and his dog survive night in Virginia forest

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 1 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

Experts in such cases draw models that suggest the direction a wandering child might take. The most likely scenario took the boy and his dog toward the nearby river, an outcome that would have almost certainly ended Jakob’s story quite differently. Brandi had watched boats and rescuers in wet suits come and go all night and knew if they were to make a discovery, the headline would be tragic. In fact, Brandi knew that Snyder and his bloodhound had been involved in a case earlier this year when a young toddler lost his life in a river.

Privately, deputies began to theorize how an abduction might have taken place, how the remote rural road would have provided opportunity for someone with sinister motives.

Publicly, Jakob’s family, led by his faithful mother, maintained that the story would not end with such a tragic headline.

All across the massive search area, the army of volunteers prayed, too. They prayed alone and in groups. They prayed silently and out loud. They prayed by text and social media.

At 4 a.m., the scanner crackled with the sound of static and then the voice of a deputy. “The boy’s been found.”

The next sound was the only voice that mattered. Above the crackles and pops, Brandi heard one simple word: “Mommy.”

A good friend of mine, a deputy on the scene that night, said it was a powerful moment. “I’ll never forget it for the rest of my life.”

Brandi and her family were quickly loaded into trucks and driven to meet Jakob near the discovery point, roughly half a mile from home in the thick, dense woods. It appeared Chance had never left his side and the two shivered in the 40-degree air. “Man’s best friend” proven true, once again.

Jakob was scratched and cold and missing one of his favorite shoes, but the hospital gave him a quick green light to return home and by 6 a.m. — their adventure was over.

A few days later, I was honored to sit with Brandi and Jakob at their kitchen table. Brandi noted how even days later, Chance was often locating Jakob in the house, giving him a nudge and a sniff, and making sure he was close. Just because it was an adventure doesn’t mean either wants to repeat it.

Together we recognized the miracle of the moment — these stories don’t always turn out this way. Instead of asking, “How will you remember your son?” I asked what his safe return had taught her.

Along with her family, they learned that there is always someone looking over us. Their faces, though unseen in this life, just might be familiar in the next.

When Brandi reported that all of her grandparents had died, I asked whether she believed they might have been aware of what unfolded that night. Not just aware, she believes, “They were there. They must have been.” It’s inconceivable to every member of the family that Jakob and Chance were ever without angelic guidance.

In fact, Brandi’s mother told me she spoke to her parents on the other side of the veil near the river. “Please watch over him,” she whispered.

Though they’d never really forgotten, the entire family was reminded how the Lord ministers to us through others. In our greatest hours of need, God’s hands become our hands when we reach out to lift one another.

In the immediate aftermath of the voice that shot round the county, the family offered a prayer in the living room Jakob escaped from more than 10 hours earlier. They thanked God for volunteers, for law enforcement expertise, for angels of all shapes and sizes, and for headlines that remind us just how close heaven really is.

“Aided by angels, 2-year-old boy and his dog survive night in Virginia forest”

Jason Wright is a New York Times best-selling author of 10 books, including "Christmas Jars," "The Wednesday Letters" and "The 96th Annual Apple Valley Barn Dance." He can be reached at jwright@deseretnews.com or jasonfwright.com.

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