Drone Technology Helps Reunite Dog After Three Days Lost in McMillan Marsh

Jax reunited

Successful Outcome for Lost Dog Thanks to Drone

How To Help Bodendorfer and TriMedia further their search and rescue technology? They are currently raising funds for a new thermal imaging camera to use in their search and rescue work. If you would like to contribute, visit their Go Fund Me page: Click here.

Steve and Mollie Schrodi were walking their dog, Jax, on the McMillan Marsh, when the young canine took off with bright orange leash and collar attached. (Click here- what to do if you lose a pet in Marshfield.)

A diverse landscape of wetlands, woodlands, and grasslands, the McMillan Marsh is about 6,500 acres in size. A hiking trail winds around the wettest areas, but much of the marsh is difficult to traverse.

After the couple searched for more than thirty hours throughout the weekend with no sign of their beloved dog, and as temperatures dropped below freezing on Saturday and Sunday, Mollie and Steve turned to social media for help. With the idea of somehow using an aerial perspective to locate Jax or his orange leash, Mollie posted online asking if anyone knew a drone pilot.

Several people suggested contacting Explore Marshfield, which is managed by local company, TriMedia*. TriMedia employs three FAA Certified drone pilots that are trained through the Wisconsin Drone Network for situational events, including search and rescue. For example, earlier this year TriMedia staff assisted Wisconsin Emergency Management during the Chetek Tornado aftermath.

Knowing that a drone perspective could mean life or death to the lost dog, pilot Branden Bodendorfer was happy to do what he could to help find Jax. Bodendorfer met Steve at the Marsh on Monday afternoon, and using drone mapping technology, began to capture images of areas that would otherwise be difficult to search.

“We started by setting up a command center. We sectioned off the Marsh and identified areas that the dog would most likely be,” said Bodendorfer. “As we went through the photography that came back to our command center, we were able to eliminate some areas of land.”

The search resumed early on Tuesday morning, Halloween, with three more TriMedia employees (who are also Marshfield Area Pet Shelter volunteers) joining in the effort. Using the real-time imagery provided by the drone, the team was able to more efficiently search the expansive marshland.

“We began our morning by researching some areas that we had identified that he couldbe,” said Bodendorfer. “Communicating via radios, we canvassed areas near where Jax had disappeared.”

After three hours of searching both in the air and on the ground, and after fifteen drone missions, shortly after noon an excited Steve came on the radio with an ecstatic “I found him!”

Jax was tangled up in some brush deep in the woods, and was overjoyed to see his owner after three nights alone in the chilly marsh. Steve was able to free him and then began the long winding trek back through the marsh to dry land, with the drone’s aerial perspective helping to guide his way.

“It was simply overwhelming,” said Bodendorfer. “Overwhelming with joy.”

Jax’s first stop after his rescue was to the vet, where he was miraculously given a clean bill of health and a microchip.

“Branden runs an incredibly well-orchestrated search and rescue operation,” said Steve. “We were able to exclude vast portions of the Marsh within a matter of a couple hours, focusing on the more likely areas. Simply put, we would have never found Jax without Branden and TriMedia!”

How To Help

Bodendorfer and TriMedia are currently raising funds for a new thermal imaging camera to use in their search and rescue work. If you would like to contribute, visit their Go Fund Me page: Click here.

You can also support local animals through Marshfield Area Pet Shelter: Click here. 

*TriMedia also manages Focus on Marshfield

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