The child's mother, Brooke Chase, said one of the dogs growled as officials approached Thea in the woods (Credit: WLUC/CNN)
A missing toddler who walked barefoot for more than three miles was found sleeping off a wooded trail in Michigan using a dog as a pillow, authorities said.
The two-year-old, Thea Chase, had wandered away from the home with two of her family's dogs, Michigan State Police told CNN.
Brooke Chase, Thea’s mother, said she had an instinct to check on her daughter who had been playing in the yard, and learned the toddler’s uncle told Thea to go inside because she had no shoes on.
When Ms Chase and her brother-in-law realised Thea wasn’t in the house, she said she began to yell.
They searched for about 20 minutes before calling Ms Chase’s husband and police.
“When we get a call like that, everything else stops,” Michigan State Police Lieutenant Mark Giannunzio said.
Michigan State Police put out requests for drones, search-and-rescue and canine teams, while members of the close-knit community formed their own search party to help locate the child, who was assumed to be somewhere in the heavily wooded area near the home.
Around midnight, four hours after police were first notified, a family friend searching for Thea on an all-terrain vehicle came across the Chase family’s rottweiler, Buddy, who started barking as he approached, according to Ms Chase.
The two-year-old was discovered a short way off the trail, sleeping on the ground with her head atop Hartley, the family’s English Springer.
When officials tried to get near the toddler to wake her up, the smaller dog growled, Ms Chase said.
“She has those dogs wrapped around her finger,” the mother said.
Ms Chase added she was “in a fog” for the roughly four hours that search teams looked for her daughter.
While she stayed in the home with Thea’s younger brother, troopers searched the house multiple times and tried to comfort the mother.
When Thea was returned home, the child was giggling and saying, "Hi, Mommy."
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