NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A missing senior citizen has been found in the woods on Long Island — delirious and covered in insects.
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, the man is alive thanks to a police dog.
The woods are deep and dense around the Barrett home in Yaphank. The driveway alone is a quarter-mile long. It was there that family friend Brion Franks dropped by three days in a row.
“We called his church friends, no one had seen him, he’s not in the local hospitals. His bed wasn’t slept in, then I started to worry,” Franks said.
He was worried about Robert Barrett, 76, a retired college language professor with a history of dementia and wandering off. He looked around the vast property and found nothing.
“He doesn’t go in the woods. He’s afraid of the woods. He walks up and down the driveway, but that’s it,” Franks said.
That’s where Sparks came in.
The 4-year-old German Shepherd mix is a Suffolk Police Dog.
“When we got to the rear of the house the dog actually indicated a human scent, and he spun around and headed to the woods, and I could actually see the gentleman laying in the woods,” P.O. Robert Fanwick said.
Just steps from the back door, less than 20 feet into the woods, Barrett was in tall grass. He was unconscious, dehydrated, badly sunburned, and covered in ticks.
Friends speculate that he became disoriented and may have been drawn to the woods where his late wife’s ashes were recently scattered.
Fanwick said the human scent was like a beacon in the woods for his canine partner.
“We have had a lot of success finding missing people — Alzheimer’s patients, missing children,” Fanwick said.
Franks got choked up thinking about the ‘what ifs’ if Sparks hadn’t been as quick.
“I was afraid that they would have to bring in a recovery dog,” he said.
Barrett was admitted to the hospital. Meanwhile Suffolk officials urged those with loved ones who wander off to consider a police silver alert identification bracelet, or a sheriff’s department tracking device.
The Suffolk sheriff’s tracking device is called project lifesaver. It’s available through 1,200 law enforcement agencies around the country.