As the tide rose, it was starting to look perilous for Millie the jack russell-whippet cross, who had defied the efforts of police, fire and coastguards to pull her from the treacherous mudflats.
So rescuers had to get imaginative and came up with the idea of strapping a sausage to a drone and hoping the smell of the treat would entice Millie to safety. It worked wonders and Millie was reunited with her grateful owner after following the dangling sausage to higher, safer ground.
Millie disappeared after slipping her lead in Havant, Hampshire, and after frantic public calls were spotted on the mudflats, in danger of being swallowed up by the tide. She resisted efforts to encourage her to move to a safer location until a drone pilot suggested attaching food to one of the unmanned aerial vehicles that had been used to track the dog.
“It was a crazy idea,” said Chris Taylor, president of the Denmead Drone Search and Rescue team. But they went ahead and after checking Civil Aviation Authority regulations and MTOW [maximum takeoff weight] from their machines, the rescuers calculated that they could attach a single sausage to a drone.
Taylor said: “One of the local residents on the beach we were flying from provided us with the sausages – I think they were from Aldi. The woman cooked them for us and we tied them with twine.
To the delight of the rescuers, Millie takes the bait.
“If we hadn’t moved her away from that area, the tide would have risen and she would have been at risk of drowning,” Taylor said. “It was something we had never tried before – the sausages were the last resort, as we couldn’t reach her by kayak or by any other means.
“Because Millie was hungry, it worked to get her out of harm’s way to higher ground, which wouldn’t go underwater. We would definitely consider using sausages again: every dog and search operation will always be different, but if we were in a similar situation again, we would use the same methods to lure the dog.
Although the sausage worked, the creepy Millie fled again but was eventually reunited with her owner, Emma Oakes, after being spotted inland from the swamp. She ran to Oakes’ father, Tony, and jumped into his arms.
Emma Oakes, a care manager, said: ‘Relief just washed over me. It was absolutely fantastic to have him at home.
“Millie really loves food and she will eat anything you give her… raw carrots, cucumber – but she much prefers sausages. Meat is his favorite food, so hanging a sausage was probably the best thing they could entice him with.
“Millie is a rescue dog so she’s quite shy. She loves being home more than anything and now that she’s back she’s just sleeping. She sleeps and eats and looks at you as if to say, ‘I rest me, leave me alone.”