Things were looking perilous for Millie, who was left stranded on mudflats and who had defied the efforts of police, firefighters and coastguards to pluck her to safety.
So the rescuers had to think imaginatively, and came up with the idea of attaching a sausage to a drone and hoping the scent of the treat would tempt Millie to safety. It worked gloriously and Millie has been 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 appeals was spotted on the mudflats, in danger of being engulfed by the tide. She resisted efforts to encourage her to a safer spot 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, the chair of the Denmead Drone Search and Rescue team. But they pressed ahead and after checking Civil Aviation Authority regulations, and the MTOW [maximum takeoff weight] of their machines, the rescuers calculated they could attach a single sausage to a drone.
Taylor said: “One of the local residents on the beach where we were flying from supplied us with the sausages – I think they were from Aldi. The woman cooked them up for us and we attached them with string.”
To the joy of the rescuers, Millie took the bait.
“If we hadn’t had got her away from that area the tide would have come in and she would have been at risk of drowning,” said Taylor. “It was something we had never tried before – the sausages were the last resort, as we couldn’t reach her by kayak or any other means.
“Because Millie was hungry it worked at luring her away from the danger to higher ground, which wouldn’t go underwater. We certainly would consider using sausages again: every dog and search operation is always going to be different, but if we were ever in a similar situation again we would employ the same methods to lure the dog.”
Though the sausage worked, skittish Millie raced off again but was finally reunited with her owner, Emma Oakes, after being spotted inland from the marsh. She ran towards Oakes’s father, Tony, and jumped into his arms.
Oakes, a care manager, said: “Relief just poured over me. It was just absolutely fantastic to have her home.
“Millie really likes food and she’ll eat anything you give her … raw carrots, cucumber – but she much prefers sausages. Meat is her favourite food, so dangling a sausage was probably the best thing they could lure her with.
“Millie’s a rescue dog so she’s quite timid. She loves being at home more than anything and now she’s back all she’s doing is sleeping. She just sleeps and eats and looks at you as if to say: ‘I’m resting, leave me alone.’”