As It Happens

U.K. rescuers dangle sausage from a drone to save stranded dog

A drone operator in Hampshire, England dangled a sausage from his device last week. After initial efforts whistling and yelling, Elliott Exton flew the delectable drone over an area of mudflats, to try rescuing a dog named Millie. 

Millie the 3-year-old Jack Russell Terrier was lost for 4 days

When Millie the dog refused to move from the edge of a mudflat, Elliott Exton and his friends decided to draw her back out using a sausage dangling from a drone. (Denmead Drone Search and Rescue Group)

A drone operator in Hampshire, England, dangled a sausage from his device last week and helped lure a lost dog to safety.

After initial efforts whistling and yelling, Elliott Exton flew the delectable drone over an area of mudflats on Saturday in an effort to rescue the beloved pooch named Millie.

"Honestly, it was quite a sight, I'll tell you," Exton told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

The three-year-old Jack Russell terrier ran away while she was on a walk with her owner on Thursday, according to BBC News. She was lost and hungry until Exton and his friends with the Denmead Drone Search and Rescue Group used aerial footage to locate her.

Now she's home safe and sound, thanks, in part, to a sausage on a string.

Treading carefully

Mudflats are normally an untrodden part of the coastal county. As tides from the English Channel mix with mud, they create a vast area of wobbly wetlands.

"I would say she [Millie] was in quite a fair amount of danger," Exton said. "The water coming back in is a big risk to her and it's kind of a miracle that she survived that long already."

Millie was stranded in mudflats for three days. (Denmead Drone Search and Rescue Group)

A few times at low tide, volunteers from the Coastguard Rescue Service spotted Millie and walked out on the mudflats towards her, but the dog ran away.

"She was very mobile. Very active," Exton said.

Still, the dangerous wetlands would have made an impact on her.

"Dogs can get quite scared of anyone that they don't know, especially when they're in flight and fight mode. So that's kind of the mode that they go into whenever they get sent alone and or are unsure of their surroundings and everything's a danger to them," Exton, whose organization often searches for missing pets, said. 

Following the scent

Along with the coast guard, many people across the county were trying to bring Millie back from the mudflats, including local police and firefighters.

But it was one of Exton's team members who came up with the innovative idea of combining low-tech with high-tech, by tying a sausage to a drone using a piece of string.

"At that point, we were certainly up for any idea, really," he said.

An aerial drone dangles a sausage from a string. (Denmead Drone Search and Rescue Group)

Exton and his friends were already charging their drone batteries inside some local residents' homes, so they asked if they could have some food for Millie. They got four sausages along with some bacon bits. Another neighbour gave the team some string.

"We managed to tie them to two of our drones ... [but] we were dangling at five metres," Exton said. "You never know if it's going to work."

But Millie saw the sausage that was hanging from the drone, and she followed it as long as she had a solid, grassy spot within the mudflats to step.

"She would not transfer across to the muddy areas. So although the drones were able to move her closer to the shore, there was a big stretch of mud separating her between the islands and the shore," Exton said.

"Although we got her from a thousand metres away to 100 metres away, we still couldn't get her off the mudflats using the sausage."

A dog's best friend

It took a familiar face to bring Millie back to safety.

On Monday, the drone operators got a tip from community members who saw the dog in an industrial park. 

"As soon as we got the sightings, we passed them on to the owner and the owner got the owner's father because the owner wasn't available due to work," Exton said. "So the owner's father came down with his dog called Jasper. And Jasper and Millie are both pretty close.

"So she sees Jasper, Millie comes running up, and that's the end of it."

Millie's owner Emma Oakes told the BBC that Millie is doing well. 

"What they do as volunteers is absolutely fantastic," she said. "I can't thank them enough."

Written by Mehek Mazhar. Interview produced by Niza Lyapa Nondo.

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