Dog protects toddler lost in South Dakota woods, authorities say

A 3-year-old boy who wandered away from his western South Dakota home and became lost in the woods was protected by his dog, authorities say.

The boy was missing for about an hour Monday before police found him unharmed about a quarter mile from his Custer home, Custer County Sheriff Rick Wheeler told the Rapid City Journal.The protective pit bull would not let rescuers near the boy, until the boy's father was able to take the dog home.

"He was showing me that this was not my area," Wheeler said of the dog. "I know that look."

Authorities tracked the boy and his dog by following footprints in the snow.

"We took off on a dead run until we found him," Wheeler said more than a dozen searchers, including the boy's parents.

Wheeler said it was not clear if the dog was following the boy or the boy was following the dog.

"I think it was a joint venture," the sheriff said with a chuckle.

The boy had no obvious injuries but was taken to a hospital as a precaution.