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UPDATE 1/4: Chico was found deceased Friday in the 100 block of Mallard Point in Wylie. The dog has been transported to a Denton County vet for a necropsy. The cause of death is unknown at this time. A tip led officers to the location, where they found the dog buried on a person's property.

DENTON -- The Denton County Sheriff needs the public's help finding a missing law enforcement officer a dog named "Chico."

The department's only K-9 sniffs out illegal drugs, though hope of finding Chico alive is fading.

Two weeks ago, when a front blew in, bringing high winds that reached up to 60 miles per hour in some portions of North Texas, the gate at the K-9 handler's house in Wylie blew open. The Belgian Malinois, which resembles a German shepherd, escaped with another dog, a yellow lab.

"He's considered one of us," said Denton County Sheriff Will Travis. "He's registered through the state as a police officer. He's got markings, just like our police officers do. That's why we consider him a man down."

Greg Bantel lives in a Wylie neighborhood near Lake Ray Hubbard. He was working in his workshop, when he suddenly saw two dogs.

"I was looking down, I turned and here the dogs come," he said.

What Bantel didn't realize was one of those dogs belongs to the Denton County Sheriff's Office.

Investigators believe the two dogs made a trek from one Wylie neighborhood, through the country to Bantel's neighborhood a few miles away. Bantel said the dogs, which he describes as friendly, came into his house when he accidentally left the front door open. Wylie police later found the lab, but not Chico.

Bantel said he discovered the dog's identity when he saw a sign a few days later.

"In retrospect, we could've held onto him," Bantel said. "So I do feel some responsibility for me not being more proactive or intuitive. And I feel badly about that."

Sheriff Travis just took office this week. He said finding the highly-trained Chico, valued at $10,000, was a top priority.

Travis is holding onto hope that Chico is still alive. But he told us, it's difficult to be optimistic when the dog hasn't been seen for two weeks.

If you've seen Chico, please contact the Denton County Sheriff's Office.

E-mail sstoler@wfaa.com

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