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Aerial reconnaissance brings comfort to Bahamians searching for pets

Posted at 9:40 PM, Oct 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-09 04:28:54-04

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Weeks after Hurricane Dorian, Kathy Bussert’s home in Marsh Harbour remains nothing more than a foundation. She also lost three pets, two cats and a 12-year-old Chihuahua named Sox.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: Bahamas After Dorian

“I haven’t slept in weeks,” said Bussert. “I’ve been through hurricanes but never a Category 5. It’s been terrible. Terrible. I lost everything.”

But Big Dog Ranch Rescue has provided some comfort. On Tuesday, the organization's search and rescue team reunited Bussert with Sox. It’s the 59th reunion and 150th rescue.

The people behind the rescues are volunteers who use aerial reconnaissance with a top of the line drone -- a first for Big Dog Ranch Rescue.

“It will detect the heat of a dog. So the dog will glow and then the rest of the ground will look a different color,” said Douglas Thron, Big Dog Ranch Rescue volunteer. “

The drone features an infrared camera to detect heat signatures buried feet under ruble and an eagle eye lens with a 180-time zoom lens.

Technology aside, the team must also understand the animals they’re searching for.

”They’re going to get up and move. They’re going to try to find somewhere to find food, shelter, and water,” said Sean Irion, Big Dog Ranch Rescue volunteer. “So it really is a needle in a haystack.”

Irion says typically dogs roam during the hours of sunrise and sunset. And thanks to technology and his team's passion, it will lead to more happy endings.

“It’s everybody coming together to help one another,” said Irion. “Everybody has their own skillset and if you can combine them for a greater cause you can move mountains.”

The search and rescue team heads to Freeport, Grand Bahamas Islands on Wednesday. And continue scouring east of the island through the week.