Family dog protects missing North Dakota toddler through stormy night

Carson Urness and the family dog, Cooper, disappeared from the family home; a search of the 2,000-acre area failed to find the child and the animal. (Photo credit: WDAY)

A touching story out of Cooperstown, North Dakota, this morning proves that nothing comes between a faithful dog and his boy.

On Monday night, 3-year-old Carson Urness wandered away from his parent’s farm. Carson’s mother, Courtney Urness, says her son was out playing with his John Deere Digger toy early that evening with the family’s loyal Golden Retrievermix, Cooper, also 3 years old.

“And then, seven-thirty rolled around [and] I figured he’d start getting hungry sometime,” Courtney tells WDAY News of her son.

When she listened and heard only silence in return, Courtney says she knew something was very wrong. Courtney turned around to where her little boy had been playing, but Carson wasn’t there. Her worry turned to panic when, after searching the entire family farm, her son was nowhere to be found.

“I lost it I guess you could say,” says Courtney. “Yeah, it was hard.”

The worried mother called 9-1-1 for help. That’s when she noticed someone else was also M.I.A.

“You think of the worst, but then I knew Cooper was gone,” Courtney remembers. “If anyone was going to find him, they’d just have to find Cooper.”

The community rallied around the Urness family that night. A search party of more than 200 volunteers scoured the farm and surrounding areas, looking for any signs of Carson’s and Cooper’s whereabouts.

“ATVs, horses, and more footwalkers showed up,” Sheriff Robert Hook tells Valley News Live. “Even the neighbors, business owners, and bankers. They just came out and thought they needed to help.”

The sun began to set and it looked like a storm was rolling in, so Bloodhounds were brought to the area to assist in the search, using their noses to sniff through more than 2,000 acres. But Carson and Cooper were still missing as the clock struck midnight. Then, the rain started, bringing with it a dangerous chill.

“As the night went on, there got to be a little more moisture in the air and at about two in the morning the rain was coming down and we were at the point to send the footwalkers home,” Sheriff Hook remembers. “There was nothing more for them to do.”

Just as the search party was coming in for the night, one volunteer called out through the sound of thunder and pouring rain.

“Pat went over the hill and shot his headlights and Cooper stood up just enough to let him know he was there,” Courtney explains.

Just after 2 a.m., Carson had been found a mile from his home, and loyal Cooper was there, too, steadfastly guarding his boy. Cooper was discovered laying on top of his toddler friend, keeping little Carson protected from the elements. Carson was returned to his mother and father by a volunteer on ATV, the young boy shaken and muddy but in good health. Devoted Cooper followed close behind the ATV, determined to stay with Carson.

Carson’s parents, thrilled to have their son home safe and sound again, are more than grateful for their amazing dog.

“I was really proud of him,” Carson’s father, Brock Urness, says of Cooper.

“Great dog. I just didn’t realize that he would actually be keeping [Carson] warm and protecting him,” Courtney agrees. She says that even if the search had been called off that cold, stormy night, she knows Cooper would have kept her son safe until they both could be found.

Even Sheriff Hook was touched by the bond Carson shares with Cooper, who first joined the Urness family when he was just a puppy, left to fend for himself on the side of the road near the farm.

“The dog and him are buddies,” the Sheriff says of the pair of dog and boy.

Courtney and Brock say Carson and Cooper are both doing fine after their ordeal.

Sources: Valley News Live, WDAY News