Missing toddler found sleeping in woods using her dog as a pillow after walking 3 miles barefoot

A 2-year-old girl who walked barefoot more than three miles with her family’s two dogs was found sleeping off a wooded Michigan trail using the smaller dog as a pillow, authorities said.

Troopers were called to a house in rural Faithorn, Michigan, around 8 p.m. on Wednesday after the toddler, Thea Chase, had wandered away from the home, Michigan State Police Lt. Mark Giannunzio told CNN on Friday.

Faithorn is a small town about a mile east of Wisconsin’s border in northern Michigan.

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 Chase and her brother-in-law realized Thea wasn’t in the house, she said she began to yell. They searched for about 20 minutes before calling Chase’s husband and police.

“When we get a call like that, everything else stops,” 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, Giannunzio said.

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 Chase.

Thea Chase sits with with her family's dogs. - Courtesy Brooke Chase
Thea Chase sits with with her family's dogs. - Courtesy Brooke Chase

The 2-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 the ATV driver tried to get near the toddler to wake her up, the smaller dog growled, Chase said.

“She has those dogs wrapped around her finger,” the mother said.

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 on the back of the ATV, the child was giggling and saying, “Hi, Mommy,” Chase said.

The outdoor temperature was about 60 degrees when the toddler was found. Thea was determined to be fine after a medical evaluation, according to Giannunzio.

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