A man, his dog, and a toddler might be some interesting characters in a fairy tale, but the following true story is both heartwarming and cautionary. Call it being in the right place at the right time, divine Providence, a guardian angel, or just plain luck, a little girl may be alive today because of a ritual performed by thousands of residents every morning and evening.
Mike got up to take the family dog out for an early morning walk. His neighborhood is composed of single family detached houses, townhomes, and condominiums, all tucked snugly together just inside the Beltway. Early November mornings are dark and chilly, so it was a surprise for Mike to see a young girl, two to three years old, walking around outside, shoeless and in her pajamas, with no adult present. Mike acted quickly, picked up the toddler, and brought her into the warmth of his home, where he woke up his partner, Drew. They wrapped the little girl in blankets, and called the police. Drew walked around the community to see if he could find the parents, but no one was around. He also contacted a female neighbor, with whom the little girl might be more comfortable in a stranger’s home.
The police arrived to begin a search for the parents. Another neighbor thought the parents lived in a condominium unit, but there was no response when the police knocked on that unlocked door. Entering the condo, the police woke the child’s mother, who was unaware that her daughter had gotten out of the home. Security camera video first caught the girl wandering around at 4:30 a.m., so she was out in the cold for at least 40 minutes before Mike discovered her. She had wandered from the condo unit to the community pool, and attempted to open two pool gates before she wandered over to a vehicle and out of camera range. The video also indicates that she scared off two foxes who were hunting for food near the pool deck.
A barefoot toddler in the cold dark, near a swimming pool, with wild animals foraging for food, are ingredients for disaster. Thankfully, a quick thinking neighbor (and a family dog who needed to do what dogs do) averted what could have been a tragedy. For his quick actions, the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department presented a citizen’s lifesaving award to Mike this week. This was a great story that, happily, ended safely, but also a reminder to parents, or anyone caring for children, that it’s often easy for kids to “escape” from home on their way to what they might view as an “adventure.” Securing door and window locks and screens would be a good start.
The 23rd Annual Mason District Holiday Town Gathering will be held on Monday, Dec. 10, beginning at 7 p.m., at the Mason District Governmental Center, 6507 Columbia Pike in Annandale. Live musical entertainment will be provided by the Sweet Adelines “Reflections” quartet, singing barbershop music. We will have refreshments and door prizes, along with my annual State of Mason District Report. Come with your friends and family; I look forward to seeing you there!
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.