BOONE — First responders found an 18-month-old girl unharmed in a field on Oct. 5 approximately 2,000 feet from her home two hours after she had been reported missing, according to Watauga County Fire Marshal Taylor Marsh.
The Watauga County Fire Marshal’s Office, Watauga County Sheriff’s Office, Boone Fire and Watauga Medics initially responded to the 1:30 p.m. call after the guardians said the girl had been missing for about 30 minutes. It was determined that the child had walked away from the home in about the 1500 block of Little Laurel Road and had followed two dogs out of the home’s basement door that was “left open on accident.”
“We’ve seen that before. It’s a common thing for children to follow animals outside,” Marsh said. “They’ll continue to follow them and then it gets to the point that they’ve gone a certain amount of distance from the home and they don’t know how to get back.”
Crews from Watauga Rescue, Foscoe Fire Department and Blowing Rock first responders were later called to the scene. Marsh said calls were also made to Avery County and Caldwell County first responders, but the child was found before the out-of-county agencies could respond.
According to Marsh, a WCSO deputy located the child in a field after hearing her cries. She was wet and cold from rain, and was transported by Watauga Medics to the Watauga Medical Center for evaluation. Marsh said the child was later released with no serious injuries.
No charges were issued in the incident, according to WCSO Sgt. Lucas Smith.
“It’s always good practice, especially with kids that young, to make sure that doors are closed when you’re at home,” Marsh said.
Marsh added that while it’s common to let children roam around a house, guardians should check on the child every so often to make sure they’re accounted for. If an animal is indoors and needs to be let out, guardians should ensure that a child isn’t following the animal outside. Guardians should also keep a close eye on pet doors in case a child attempts to travel through the pet door, Marsh said.
Additionally, Marsh said he was thankful for the large amount of crew members that responded quickly to the scene and that the child was found to be OK.