A 17-year-old deaf and partly blind Australian dog has achieved hero status for helping save a 3-year-old girl who was lost overnight after wandering into bushland near her home.
According to reports in local media, Max, who is a cattle dog breed known as a blue heeler, followed the girl as she wandered more than a mile from her family property in New South Wales on Friday night. He then stayed with her overnight as temperatures fell into the 50s and rain fell before leading the girl’s grandmother and rescuers to her the next morning.
The girl, identified as Aurora, was reported missing at 3 p.m. Friday, but a search of woodlands and hills on the rural property in wet weather that evening found no trace of her, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.
The next morning, more than 100 volunteers and police resumed the search and found the girl safe and well with Max, the network said.
For keeping the little girl safe, Max has been declared an honorary police dog, website news.com.au reported.
Kelly Benston, the partner of Leisa Bennett, who is Aurora's grandmother, said Bennett and other searchers heard the girl faintly from the top of a mountain on Saturday morning.
"She found the dog first,” Benston said. “Max led her to Aurora."
"I shot up the mountain,” Bennet said, “and when I got to the top, the dog came to me and led me straight to her.”
Benston expressed the couple’s relief on social media, saying the little youngster had been brave during her ordeal.
“She was in the area we first figured. Down the valley on top of one of those mountainsides. Camped out for the night,” he posted on Facebook.
Rescuer Ian Phipps said it was a wonderful outcome. “With the weather last night it’s quite lucky she is well because it was ... cold and raining,” he told ABC. “She’s a very hardy young lass to survive that without any ill effects and everyone, all the volunteers, are extremely happy.”