Missing Canton Girl Found in Wooded Area

Van Zandt County sheriff credits family's pit bull with keeping her safe

By Elvira Sakmari
|  Wednesday, Feb 12, 2014  |  Updated 12:24 PM CDT
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A 3-year-old girl who wandered away from her Canton home was found safe with her family dog.

Omar Villafranca, NBC 5

A 3-year-old girl who wandered away from her Canton home was found safe with her family dog.

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A 3-year-old Canton girl who wandered away from home Thursday afternoon was found safe six hours later.

Van Zandt County Sheriff Pat Burnett Jr. said Zoey Smith was found just after 7 p.m. in a wooded area nearly two hours away, holding on to the collar of the family's pit bull named Brownie.

"The dog helped her stay safe, I think," he said.

NBC 5's Omar Villafranca snapped a photo of paramedics checking on Zoey inside an ambulance.

"It's just been a nightmare and a dream all come true in one night, you know?" said her father, Steven Smith.

Burnett said deputies began searching for the little girl after she was reported missing from her grandmother's home in the 1500 block of County Road 4027 in Canton.

Investigators said they think Zoey might have grabbed the dog's collar and gone for a walk.

"The dog was walking her. Yeah, the dog's on house restriction now," her father said with a laugh.

Burnett said initially that his office was working with the state to get approval for a statewide Amber Alert, but that investigators had not determined if the little girl wandered away from the house. The Amber Alert was never issued.

Video from Chopper 5 showed vehicles from several agencies lining County Road 4027 in Canton.

The Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter helped with the search from the air, while surrounding agencies help with the ground search. Some searchers used bloodhounds as well.

NBC 5's Omar Villafranca contributed to this report.

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