Rescuers are crediting the family dog with helping them find a 3-year-old Caroline County girl after she wandered away from home.

Maj. Scott Moser of the Caroline Sheriff’s Office said Makenna Sylvia had been playing in the yard at her parents’ home on Bagby Road in Sparta last Friday when she apparently followed a puppy and another family dog into the woods.

Her mother, Harley Carter, said she was nearby watching Makenna before walking to the side of the house to put away a gas can. When she returned to the front yard just minutes later, her daughter had disappeared.

Carter said she immediately ran through the house, fields and woods that surround the rural farmland looking for her daughter, but Makenna and the two dogs were nowhere in sight.

The mother frantically began running toward the tree-lined woods, looking for Makenna, when she saw the puppy running back toward the home, she said.

“There was a 40-foot drop-off and my fear was that she had fallen down the hill,” Carter said.

She called for help and soon neighbors, friends, local law enforcement officers and state police showed up to help search for Makenna.

Moser said the officers arrived at the home about 1:15 p.m. and began a ground and air search with drones and the Chesterfield County MedFlight 1 helicopter.

“Every minute seemed like an hour,” Makenna’s mother said. “My only hope was that [the dog] Titan was with her and guiding her back home.”

For three hours, rescuers searched in nearby fields, barns and thick ravines.

From the air, flight paramedic Nik Ronesi spotted the fluorescent dog collar that Titan, a Labrador and mastiff mix, was wearing. As they got closer, Titan began running back and forth around a swamp area.

After the chopper landing nearby, Ronesi forged his way through a marsh and found Makenna standing in knee-high water. She was barefooted and still wearing a T-shirt and a pair of capris.

The chopper flew her home, landing in a nearby field.

“She was covered in mud and had many scratches on her legs,” said Makenna’s father, Jordan Sylvia. “We were so happy to see her; everyone was crying and hugging.”

Aside from her body temperature dropping to 93.3 degrees and a few scratches, the little girl was not injured. Makenna didn’t want to talk about her adventure, but said Titan protected her.

Her father thinks that she ran after the puppy and fell down the ravine and kept walking toward the swamp area trying to find her way back home.

Moser said there was a tremendous outpouring of immediate volunteer resources offered from neighbors, Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, fire and rescue and state police.

“We were fortunate to find her as soon as we did,” Moser said. “The Caroline County community came together to help find this little girl.”

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