April 5, 1999 was no ordinary day for nine-year-old Ethan Beattie and his eight-year-old friend, Steven Murray. Ethan and Steven spent the early afternoon playing in a fort they had built in the woods across from Steven’s farm, while Steven’s dog Elmo lay uninterested nearby. Later joined by three other kids, the group of boys headed to a pond to hunt for frogs with Elmo in tow. After a couple of hours, Ethan and Steven decided it was time to head home.
The adventurous pair, along with Elmo, followed a trail they believed led back to the fort. However, the path they were following led them into very treacherous terrain, consisting of swamp, quicksand and other dangerous waterways.
Lost and frightened, Ethan became entangled in brush and swamp. A terrified Steven ventured off in search of help. Eventually emerging from the woods, wet up to his shoulders and shivering from the cold, Steven made his way home. Ethan remained in the woods, scared, wet and lost. but not alone. Sensing Ethan’s fear, Elmo remained by Ethan’s side providing warmth and comfort, which would save the young boy’s life.
Worried by their disappearance, the boys’ parents alerted the authorities. Almost immediately, an extensive search was underway involving local police and their canine unit, an OPP helicopter, a fire team and community volunteers. With no sign of Ethan as night fell, the search and rescue team contemplated suspending rescue efforts. In a final attempt before darkness set in, a firefighter saw a pair of eyes in the light. A shivering Elmo and a nearly unconscious Ethan were discovered. Suffering from hypothermia, paramedics rushed Ethan to the Uxbridge Hospital for treatment.
Throughout the ordeal, Elmo refused to leave Ethan’s side, leading him away from danger and keeping him warm and awake. Durham Regional Police believed that Ethan’s survival was a direct result of Elmo’s heroic actions.