Frantic. Panicked. Terrified. The thought of losing a child is enough to make any parent sick, and for those that actually do, the utter helplessness that follows feels like a nightmare you just can’t wake up from. Most of the time a child is found shortly after going missing, yet there’s no telling what condition you may find them in.
Michigan fireman Jeffery Seyfried had seen his fair share of triumphs and tragedies over the years, though nothing could prepare him for the day he went searching for a missing two-year-old girl. After tirelessly scouring the area for the lost toddler, Seyfried came upon a sight so unbelievable that all he could do was pull out his phone and take a photo.
Before all that, however, it was just an ordinary November day in the quiet suburb of Tawas City. The sun was shining, the air was crisp, and two-year-old Brooklyn Lynn Lilly was out in the yard, playing as one of her relatives looked on.
But after turning away for just a moment, Brooklyn’s babysitter returned to find the little girl had wandered off. Believing she’d toddled her way to the backyard, the relative hurried through the house and threw open the back door.
Yet Brooklyn wasn’t back there, either. After frantically searching in and around the home, the babysitter came to a terrifying realization: the two-year-old was nowhere to be found — and this wasn’t just some game of hide-and-seek.
A whirlwind of scenarios played out in Brooklyn’s babysitter’s head. Had she gotten lost in the woods near the house? Had she crawled into a tight space and was unable get out? Or worst of all: had someone driven by and snatched her?
With no answers to be found, the relative rushed inside and phoned the police. Officers were on the scene within minutes, and after turning up no sign of the two-year-old, they realized a bigger search was in order.
The Daily Beast
Volunteers came out in droves to help locate the missing child, including complete strangers. “I have no idea who the family is,” fellow Tawas City resident Chantell Vanschalkwyk told The Bay City Times. “I just want to help find [Brooklyn] and get her back safe.”
Dozens of state troopers as well as local police and firemen soon joined in the search. Aboard ATVs and helicopters, they canvassed the area, hoping to find some sign of Brooklyn.
Yet their progress was impeded when a terrible storm blew through the area. Unable to continue their search at full strength, volunteers and officers alike were forced to sit back and wait as freezing rains threatened to wash away all traces of the little girl.
When the weather finally cleared, it had been nearly 24 hours since Brooklyn’s disappearance. K9 units were brought in to see if they could pick up what remained of Brooklyn’s trail, though by this point, hope was waning.
But Jeffrey Seyfried, assistant chief of the Tawas City Fire Department, wasn’t ready to give up on the search just yet. Alongside officer Denis McGuckin and his police dog Jax, Seyfried continued on in the hope of bringing Brooklyn back home.
By this point, the search for the missing two-year-old had spread far beyond the area surrounding her home. Seyfried and his companions were close to a mile from Brooklyn’s last known location when Jax began barking at a small area of disturbed woodland.
This was by no means out of the ordinary: after all, the police pup could’ve caught a whiff of an animal hiding somewhere in the trees. But as Seyfried and McGuckin went to investigate, they spotted something that made their hearts sink.
Lying beneath a tree was a small figure, its body wrapped in a winter coat. Its size and clothing left no doubt in Seyfried’s mind — it was Brooklyn.
The Wall Street Journal
But as the pair approached, the child didn’t stir. Seyfried and McGuckin, below, exchanged a look, both knowing exactly what the other was thinking and hoping against all hope they weren’t right. Finally, they mustered the courage to call out the little girl’s name.
This time, however, the figure shifted slightly and eventually peeked its head from beneath the coat. It was Brooklyn alright, and at the sight of the two men and the dog, she simply sat up and smiled.
Despite a few cuts and bruises and a long night out in the elements, Brooklyn’s spirits couldn’t have been higher. As the pair approached her, she began giggling, and, after returning her to the waiting search party, the two-year-old exclaimed that she’d loved her stay in the woods!
Up All Hours
But perhaps the most memorable part of that afternoon was the enormous, ear-to-ear smile Brooklyn had on her face. Seyfried was so touched by the toddler’s positivity and optimism that he snapped a photo of the little girl for all the world to enjoy.
And enjoy they did, as the photo soon went viral and brought hundreds of touching comments with it. “No one had to say cheese. That is a happy smile,” wrote one user. “This picture is perfect. What an absolutely beautiful little girl,” said another.
“It was a rough night, but the moment that she was found was something special,” Seyfried said later. “You just never know what could happen to someone that young. I’m glad that she was safe and unharmed.”
Fortunately for Brooklyn, the woodlands she had wandered into weren’t too far from the suburbs, making her recovery quicker than most would expect. There are some places a K9 unit can’t get the job done.
Seyfried and McGuckin were happy they weren’t dealing with four-year-old Karina Chikitova, who lived in a remote Siberian village in the far east region called The Sakha Republic. There, she shared a small home with her father, mother, grandmother, and her dog, Naida.
Like most kids her age, Karina was energized by a youthful curiosity, that urge to explore and know and understand. Which was why, in July 2014, she followed her father, Rodion, on an expedition into a part of the Siberian wilderness also known as the taiga.
Now this decision was problematic for a few different reasons. The first reason being that the taiga is very much an animal kingdom, dominated by bears, tigers, and wolves with really sharp teeth and an appetite for people.
The second problem with Karina’s decision was that she had not told her grandmother — the person charged with watching her at the time — that she would be following her dad into the bear-infested wilderness.
In fact, she hadn’t even told her dad that she would be following him. So literally no one on the planet knew that this four-year-old girl was diving headstrong into the most dangerous territory on the planet. No person, at least.
Karina did have a companion at her side: Naida, the family dog. That, evidently, was all the comfort the little girl needed, but it was little comfort to her mother, Talina, when she realized her little girl and the dog were both missing.
At first, Talina figured her youngster and the dog followed Rodion to his native village, but Siberia wasn’t exactly flooded with quality LTE, so she couldn’t pull out a cellphone and check. Instead she waited to hear from her husband.
In the meantime, Karina, followed her father until she somehow managed to lose his trail. Her dad disappeared from view leaving her very much stranded in Siberia with Naida. And the bears. And the wolves.
It took four days of waiting for mother Talina to learn that, no, her daughter was not with her husband in his home village. No stranger to Siberia, she understood this to be a very bad thing, so she alerted authorities.
Radio Free Europe
They deployed a 100-person rescue team to head out into Siberian wilds to find her. The team carried rifles to fend off bears (yeah, there were that many bears in the woods).
Helicopters sliced the sky and rescue workers on foot combed through the trees and tall grass, but their search proved fruitless: Karina was nowhere to be seen. But then, nine days after she went missing, authorities found a clue.
More specifically, a clue walked right up to the authorities and introduced herself. Naida returned to her home — but Karina was not with her! What should’ve been a hopeful moment only seemed to confirm Talina’s worst thoughts.
“If she was to hug her puppy,” Talina said, “we thought, ‘this would have given her a chance to…survive.’ So when her dog came back we thought ‘that’s it.’ Even if she was alive — and chances were slim — now she would have definitely have lost all hope.”
But Naida hadn’t just wandered absentmindedly home. She seemed eager to show the desperate family and the rescue crew something important. The dog headed the group of rescuers and led them into the wilderness…
The dog led authorities to a spot in the wilderness, but none of them saw Karina there. Naida, it seemed, couldn’t find the exact area where she’d left the little girl! Authorities wondered if they were anywhere near her at all.
But three days later — 12 days after Karina first went missing — rescue workers spotted a child-sized footprint on a river bed beside a dog’s paw print. The footprint revealed Karina was barefoot, a crucial detail for investigators.
This told rescue workers that Karina likely was not in the woods. Too many sharp sticks there would’ve been a nightmare on her feet. This narrowed their search down considerably, and the following morning, they executed that new search plan.
And sure enough, just 20 meters from where they started searching, one rescue worker noticed a peculiar lump tucked away in a patch of tall grass. The whole crew rushed over.
They found her nestled in the grass. She was starving, thirsty, exhausted, and covered in mosquito bites, but nevertheless alive. They brought her tea before carrying her to a car and whisking her away to the nearest hospital.
The child spent some time in the hospital, but physicians determined there wouldn’t be any lasting damage. A psychologist examined her mental state and found, shockingly, her mind was in a good place. Talk about mental fortitude.
So how did a four-year-old girl survive in the Siberian wilderness? The little girl told reporters and her family that she survived off wild berries and river water.
Then, of course, there was Naida, the lovable canine that gave her warmth at night and companionship in the daytime. The two reunited for the first time back at home when the hospital released Karina. The meeting did not go as expected.
When Karina first saw her dog, she looked her in the eyes and chided, “why did you leave me?” Those three days of solitude must’ve really affected the little girl. But eventually, she came to understand what the dog did for her.
“It was Naida who rescued me,” Karina said sometime later. “I was really, really scared. But when we were going to sleep I hugged her, and together we were warm.”
Karina’s story gripped everyone watching, and locals even erected a statue of the girl and her pooch to celebrate their strength and will to survive. Not bad for a four-year-old and her dog, huh?
In the end, Karina made a full recovery, and by 2018, attended a ballet boarding school 350 miles away from the village she’d wandered away from all those years ago. Her teachers believed she had the talent to compete in Russia’s competitive ballet scene.
“When she just started her classes, Karina was very reserved,” a boarding school leader said. “She has changed so much and became a lot more open, sociable, friendly and independent. She made many friends who love her lots.”
But even as she danced like an expert and earned friends with her exuberant personality, she would never forget the friend that made it all possible: Naida, the loyal canine.
Thanks to an abundance of technologies and other people, we can easily pinpoint our exact locations. In this day and age, it’s hard to get truly lost, though some places, like rural Siberia, are not-so WiFi-rich.
15 year old Svetlana Evai lived her entire life in the Gydan Peninsula, a frigid place in northern Siberia. Svetlana dreamed of a life outside of the continuous routine with her family.
Like many others, she and her family herded reindeer to make a living. Though not the most exciting profession, shepherding instilled Svetlana with deep confidence when it came to navigating Siberia’s rough terrain.
While she was stuck at home, Svetlana wished she were with her brother. He spent the summer at a different camp some distance away, presumably living it up and having all the fun Svetlana wasn’t allowed to have.
The Siberian Times
But of course, he wasn’t that far away — just four miles. Svetlana figured she could make that journey in no time at all and that whatever her brother was up to had to be more exciting than sitting around with her family and some reindeer.
Flickr / wowbagger0420
So Svetlana set off to visit her brother. She was traveling alone and without any kind of navigation aids, but she wasn’t worried. She knew the terrain like the back of her hand, so surely going a bit further wouldn’t pose a problem.
Yamal Peninsula Travel
Several hours passed, and Svetlana started to panic. She should have made it to her brother by now, and yet she stood in the middle of the wilderness, with no people or buildings in sight. She began to feel dizzy.
Flickr / Lady Fiszi
Meanwhile, her family back home grew concerned. Svetlana had never gone out alone for such a long time. Her Uncle Ivan, knowing that time was precious, organized a search party of family members and neighbors. They had to find her.
But Ivan understood the vast scope of the Siberian region. They could surmise the rough direction in which Svetlana had headed, but that knowledge only went so far: she could’ve gotten lost and switched to any other heading.
Gydan Nature Reserve
And that was precisely what had happened. After a rough night out on the tundra, Svetlana couldn’t make heads or tails of where she was. Before she could head back home, however, another issue pressed on her mind: survival.
Svetlana felt certain help was on the way, but realized it could be a while until anyone arrived. With a bit of luck, she located some cloudberries. They were half-frozen and unripe, but they were food.
Flickr / Eero Sarkkinen
As more time passed, Svetlana kept moving. She continuously looked over her shoulder, for she knew dangerous beasts lived out on the tundra. Arctic wolves would usually go after stray reindeer, but they would gladly accept a lost girl as their meal.
Flickr / Safi Kok
Night fell again and again. Although daytime temperatures could sometimes reach 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the night air dropped far below freezing. Svetlana shivered herself to sleep as she fought to stay alive.
Flickr / hpaich
Svetlana grew so weak that she could no longer walk. Nevertheless, the will to survive kept her going. Praying that some help would arrive soon, she began to crawl on her hands and knees. She didn’t have much time left.
Her Uncle Ivan continued the search, but there wasn’t any trace of Svetlana, who went missing over two weeks before. He had spotted some brown bears, though. Could a bear have hunted her down and dragged her off to its den?
Flickr / John Solaro
Dismayed, Ivan walked around an area just seven miles from their home. Then, without warning, he spotted a figure on the horizon. It ambled toward him. Without thinking, he ran towards the shape and hoped for a miracle.
Flickr / Brendan Ó Sé
It was Svetlana! Though her body was battered and bruised and she was emotionally spent, somehow, she stayed alive. Ivan resisted the urge to scold her for acting so foolishly and arranged for a physician to examine his niece.
The Siberian Times
Living in such a remote part of the Gydan Peninsula, Svetlana did not have access to a full medical staff in the immediate vicinity of her home. A helicopter arrived to carry her to a hospital. Once aboard, she shared her incredible story.
Nobody could quite believe how Svetlana scraped together the bare essentials out in the wilderness. Though still just a girl, she managed to evade the tundra’s many hazards while knowing how to take advantage of its biggest asset: plenty of fresh water.
The Siberian Times
Amazingly, Svetlana seemed pretty healthy. Though she had no shelter and barely any food over the course of two weeks, her vitals were pretty steady. Doctors found no sign that her life was in danger.
But just as a precaution, Svetlana’s family kept her in the hospital in Tazovsky to fully recuperate. They gave thanks that she survived such an ordeal and hoped that after her harrowing adventure, Svetlana wouldn’t mind spending time at home again.