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Missing search and rescue dog found

Sunday - 1/8/2012, 8:49am  ET

010612_vito_512.jpg
Vito is a 3-year-old black German Shepherd with 'brown stockings.' (Photo Courtesy of Sonja Heritage)

WASHINGTON - A missing search and rescue dog who went missing Thursday has been found.

Vito, a 3-year-old black German Shepherd with "brown stockings", was performing a search and rescue exercise with his handler, Sonja Heritage, at White Marsh Park off Route 3 in Bowie, Md. when he apparently got distracted by a fox and ran off Thursday afternoon.

Heritage, the dog's handler, says she got a call from a man named Omar late Saturday who said he had her dog.

"He said 'I have your dog, I have Vito, he's a wonderful dog and I've been taking care of him, and I know he needs to come back home,'" says Heritage.

She met Omar and his family around 12:30 Sunday morning at a gas station to pick up the dog.

"There's not a scratch on him and we can't thank him enough," says Heritage.

"I can't smile any more," she adds.

She still doesn't have all the details on how Omar found Vito, but says he works at Bowie Motors Co., just across the street from the search site.

She says Omar was just treating Vito like a great, mechanic shop dog.

"Everyone was happy all the way around except us I guess," she says.

Now that Vito is back home, she says she can't stop smiling.

Heritage says she plans to learn more about how Omar found Vito later, but now they have a new member of the family.

"He's now our new uncle Omar."

Vito, a member of Fairfax County's urban search and rescue team, will get the Sunday off, but it's back to search and rescue training Monday.

Heritage plastered the Bowie area with fliers and contacted local animal shelters after he went missing.

She says she was elated by the outpouring of support from the community for helping find Vito.

WTOP's Max Smith contributed to this report. Follow WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)