Search pooch finds missing girl, 11

Brown said he was impressed that volunteer searchers and their tracking dogs were able to find the grade-schooler, who was curled up in a fetal position in a wooded area near the Heller Road fire station.

“I can’t say enough about Don Mason’s dogs,” he said, referring to the dog owner and search leader. “They are really heroes around here. It’s amazing the success rate.”

In addition, the Island County Sheriff’s Office, Oak Harbor Police, North Whidbey Fire and Rescue, the Oak Harbor Fire Department and State Parks were all involved in the search of Joseph Whidbey State Park and the northwestern section of Oak Harbor.

According to the sheriff, the girl got into trouble at school that day. When she got off the bus at about 4 p.m. and saw her mother waiting for her, she ran toward nearby Joseph Whidbey State Park. Her family spent two hours looking for her and then called police at 6 p.m.

Chief Marv Koorn with North Whidbey Fire and Rescue said the initial concern was that the girl could be lost or hurt in the seaside park. Firefighters didn’t wait for a parks official to come open the gate, but cut the lock themselves. Firefighters quickly started searching the area near the water in an all-terrain vehicle.

After more than an hour, Koorn said they started getting reports that a child, possibly the missing girl, had been seen by citizens within the Oak Harbor city limits.

Brown said one caller reported seeing the girl collapsing a number of times while walking.

The dog handlers brought a tracking dog to an area in the city where she had been seen and the pooch picked up on her scent. Oak Harbor Police Chief Rick Wallace said law enforcement set up “a containment” around the area while the canines went to work.

Finally, at about 9 p.m., the dogs discovered her in the small woods.

“She could see a police car from where she was,” Koorn said. “She had to have known we were looking for her.”

Everyone involved was pleased by the happy ending.

“She was really fine,” Koorn said. “She just seemed like a typical 11-year-old girl. She was a little cold, I imagine.”

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