BY JANE H. FURSE DAILY NEWS WRITER
A toddler lost in the Virginia woods was back home safe Sunday thanks to two puppies who kept him warm through a harrowing night of freezing temperatures.
Jaylynn Thorpe, 3, wandered away from his baby-sitter at 4 p.m. Friday and was missing for 21 hours as hundreds of friends, family and law enforcement officials searched for him in the thick woods of Halifax County, fearing the worst.
"The only thing we wanted to do was just keep searching until we found him," Halifax County Sheriff Stanley Noblin told reporters.
"We didn't forget the issue that 17 degrees was almost unbearable," said his father, James Thorpe.
"People all over the State of Virginia was down there looking for that child. For a while there, one time, I didn't know whether they would find him or not," said the child's grandmother and guardian, Katherine Elliot.
The little boy didn't say anything, according to rescue team member Jerry Gentry, but instead "just opened his arms up like, 'I'm ready to go.'"
"When I first saw him, he was like, 'Momma, I got cold. I slept in the woods last night. The puppies kept me warm.' He told me that ... the dogs slept up against him. And I'm sure the body heat kept him warm," said his mother, Sarah Ingram.
As the child was placed in an ambulance to be taken to a local hospital for examination, "The puppies were watching where he went.
"Where he went, they went," Roach said.
"Praise the Lord! Welcome home, Jaylynn!" yelled his aunt, Amy Zimmerman.
Close to 300 people from North Carolina and Virginia joined in the search to find Jaylynn.
"I love you! God bless you," Ingram told the rescue teams.
"I think I just said, 'Thank you Lord' ... for us to have another chance!" said the child's father.
Meanwhile, the furry heroes, their tails wagging, were rewarded with food.
"I definitely call this a miracle," said Noblin.