Ricky Wheeler: Missing Disabled Teen Found Alive After Bloodhound Picks Up His Scent

K9 Putnam discovered 17-year-old Ricky Wheeler in a wooded area.
K9 Putnam discovered 17-year-old Ricky Wheeler in a wooded area. (Flagler County Sheriff's Office)

It was all thanks to a hardworking dog that a Florida teen with muscular dystrophy was found safe.

Bloodhound Putnam was rewarded with a steak dinner and head rubs after tracking down 17-year-old Ricky Wheeler, who was found dehydrated and covered in bug bites Tuesday night. 

"He had no other visible injuries and was able to communicate to deputies when found that he was thirsty," the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

Nearly 100 volunteers and law enforcement officers searched for four days, but to no avail, until K-9 Putnam and his handler Emmett Merritt took over.

They used the scent on what they believed to be Wheeler’s clothes and shoes, found earlier in the search, to track down the teen. Search efforts were suspended to keep Putnam focused on Wheeler’s scent.

Wheeler was eventually found in a wooded area near Palm Coast.

"This is a story that could have had a very different ending," Sheriff Rick Staly said in a statement. "There is no greater honor in our line of work than when you can reunite a missing child with their family and tell the mother and father their child is coming home. God was clearly watching over Ricky and helped lead us to him."

Sheriff’s Office Division Chief Paul Bovino added that despite all the modern technology authorities used in the search, it was only thanks to "his neighbors and a bloodhound" that he was finally found.

Authorities said it is not clear why Wheeler left his home.

"I think the only person who knows why Ricky left is Ricky," Bovino said.

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