Trooper uses drone to find lost puppy after crash

U.S. & World

(CNN) – A Wisconsin state trooper used technology and good detective skills, sprinkled with some luck, to spot a missing puppy that had been thrown from a car during a crash last week. The little Australian Shepherd was seen hiding in the snow.

12-week old River is lighting up the room at Bay East Animal Hospital where he spends his days while his owner is in the hospital, recovering from serious injuries she suffered in a car crash.

River was in the car, too, when the driver hit a dead deer in the road and flipped into the median.

She thinks she was thrown about 100 feet — and somehow, River was tossed out too.

That was before 8 am. By two that afternoon, Wisconsin State Trooper John Jones heard about the missing puppy, and the search teams that had formed along that very busy highway.

“Rescue personnel came and were treating her and she was asking about her dog, so apparently they searched the area and never could find the dog,” he said. “We had people from all different ages and physical abilities that are trying to run across two and three lanes of traffic when cars are coming at them at 70.”

Jones sent them to search safer areas and put up his drone, using it as a training mission to brush up on his skills using the department’s new technology.

“I could see areas where the dog wasn’t, so you could clear those areas quickly,” said Jones.

He found a few spots where he thought he saw paw prints, but could only check by foot.

“So I got down and looked in this hole and he was in the whole arm length, and I saw something moving in there. I thought well, it’s a puppy or a badger. I’m going to come out either a hero or they’re going to be mad. Why would you stick your hand in a hole when you got your fingers all chewed up?!”

But he went for it anyway.

“Eventually this little nose came out and sniffed my hand, and he got a little closer and I petted him, and soon as I could get a hold of a collar, boom, he’s out of the hole,” Jones said.

Out came a shivering and scared River, eight hours after he’d gone missing.

“Then he was all licking me and like, oh my God, somebody found me! And there were people up on the right of way of the fence and all cheering and jumping up and down.”

The driver reunited with River at the hospital, who said hearing he’d been found brought everyone to tears and was the “best feeling ever.”

“These are important resources, but we can’t come to every lost dog, lost cat. In this particular case, I used it as a training opportunity.”

And a way to prevent possible injuries to searchers.

Jones sees the drones as an invaluable addition to the State Patrol — for search and rescue, crash reconstruction and mutual aid.

“The drone is a tool, so you’re not putting anybody’s lives at risk because we can do this from a mile away,” Jones said.

And in this case — find even the tiniest of treasures.

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