After an intense search, a family reunited

Searcher find missing 2-year-old boy and his dog unharmed

By Ryan Cornell

WOODSTOCK — One boy’s adventure came to a pleasant end when rescuers discovered him early Wednesday morning.

Two-year-old Jakob Heintzelman was reported missing from his Woodstock home on Tuesday evening. His mother, Brandi Mumaw, said Jakob had wandered away from the house chasing after their golden Labrador Retriever, Chance.

The dog ventured up a steep hill behind the house and a half-mile southeast through the woods near the North Fork Shenandoah River. Like a magnet, Jakob followed.

Mumaw said she realized Jakob was missing at about 6 p.m.

“I didn’t even wait 10 minutes before I called 911,” she said. “Because I knew it was going to get dark soon and I knew they needed the daylight.”

Wearing Nerf sandals, a T-shirt and thin cotton pants, Jakob and Chance braved the dark and temperatures that hovered around 40 degrees for most of the early morning.

Mumaw said Chance must have heard his name called by her mother, but the dog wouldn’t leave the boy.

“He stayed with him,” she said. “It’s not like him not to listen to her. He was indeed protecting him.”

Jakob was found at about 4 a.m. next to Chance, missing a sandal and covered in mud, scrapes and scratches. Besides that, a medical examination showed no injuries.

“Well, you just keep telling yourself they’re there, they’re gonna find him,” she said. “But then you cry because you start thinking the worst, like what if this, what if that.”

Mumaw had been waiting nervously in the house listening to her father’s police scanner.

“We were sitting here and it was dead silent,” she said. “All of a sudden, it came in that he had been located. I could hear him talking in the background. And it was just the best feeling in the world.”

Master Deputy Chris Snyder from the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office and his bloodhound, Judge, were the first ones to find Jakob.

He said Judge sniffed a car seat that Jakob had ridden in that day — the toddler had gotten back from a trip from Harrisonburg — and followed the path that Jakob and Chance had hiked hours before.

When Snyder, Judge and an officer from the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office were about 40 to 50 feet from where Jakob would be discovered, Chance started barking.

Snyder said as soon as they stepped back into the woods from the riverside, they saw the boy and his dog.

Jakob was quiet when they first found him, but opened up after they introduced themselves as police officers and Chance calmed down.

“He was very talkative when we said were taking him back to his mom,” he said. “He grabbed a hold of the officer and didn’t want to let go.”

Snyder said a person’s scent will usually fall about 15 feet from his or her body. He said bloodhounds can follow a scent that’s a week old if the weather conditions are right.

“Last night was good,” he said. “The grass was wet, which helps keep the scent. There was very little wind, 1 mile per hour. And the humidity helps.”

Judge was also used to help locate a 3-year-old boy who drowned in Cedar Creek in Star Tannery in May.

Mumaw said Jakob, exhausted from the terrifying game of hide and seek, fell asleep in her arms at the hospital.

“They told me it’s legal to put a tracking collar on my child,” she joked. She said she’s planning to get a GPS chip implanted in Chance.

She expressed gratitude for all of the volunteers and rescue patrols that showed up to help find her son.

“It’s real refreshing to know that people will stop their lives so I can continue mine,” she said. “It’s truly remarkable.”

Major Scott Proctor of the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office said the search was helped by more than 250 volunteers, a majority of whom were citizens.

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com