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Drones have been among the trendier technology items in recent years, with the flying machines that typically have cameras attached becoming more affordable. Many use their drones to get a scenic look around them, but one man in Wisconsin helped a family find their dog by using his.

In Marathon City, Wisconsin, Mollie and Steven Schrodi were taking their dog Jax for a standard walk through a marsh when the dog ran off. At the time, the couple was working with Jax on recall training. They would send him out for about 20 yards and have him come back. However, “He had seen something and took after aft it and wouldn’t come back,” Steven said. “I didn’t hear anything from him.” The couple searched for an extended period, but had no luck in finding their beloved dog.

When they returned home, distraught, the Schrodis took to social media to ask for any assistance, or if anyone had seen Jax in their neighborhood. “He just brings so much energy to our house,” Mollie said. “When he was not there, it was so quiet. And not in a good way.” The couple was tired and cold, and knew their dog was feeling the same way. Temperatures dropped below freezing, and Jax’s well being became a massive concern.

One person that saw the social media post and wanted to help was Branden Bodendorfer, a local business owner that happened to be a drone pilot. Bodendorfer is certified by the Federal Aviation Administration to fly drones, and he had been trained by the Wisconsin Drone Network for situations just like this one. He’s part of a group that’s been involved with assisting in finding survivors after tornado damage in the area, as well.

Bodendorfer didn’t just bring himself to the marsh, but brought an entire team with him to start looking for Jax. After just a few hours, the team was able to survey nearly 400 acres of land, but they were having difficulty finding Jax. Still, the group didn’t give up and had a breakthrough after a couple of days. Jax had ran more than a mile down the trail where he originally ran off, and nearly a half mile deep into the marsh area.

“We started by setting up a command center. We sectioned off the marsh and identified areas that the dog would most likely be,” Bodendorfer said. “As we went through the photography that came back to our command center, we were able to eliminate some areas of land.” He added that “We began our morning by researching some areas that we had identified that he could be. Communicating via radios, we canvassed areas near where Jax had disappeared.”

The drone camera flew close to Jax’s location, and then “He started to bark when he saw the camera,” Bodendorfer said. “And that helped us locate him. There was a lot of tears yesterday, throughout the day, but that moment was just amazing.” A dog missing for that long might be a little worse for wear, but Jax turned out to be in good condition, even if he was tangled up in deep brush.


“He looked perfect,” Mollie said. “I was surprised at how good he looked. I was expecting the worst driving (to the marsh).” Steve and Mollie then took Jax to the veterinarian, who found that he had no health issues. While they were there, though, the Schrodis made sure that Jax received a microchip so they could avoid a situation like this in the future.


The Schrodis were eternally grateful for Bodendorfer and his team willing to put in many hours and a lot of effort to help find their dog. “He saved Jax,” Mollie said. “There’s no two ways about it. He’s the reason we have Jax.” Steve Schrodi added that “Branden runs an incredibly well-orchestrated search and rescue operation. 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.”

Bodendorfer was just happy to help someone using his expertise, staying humble about the situation. “Today it was a dog. Tomorrow it could be someone’s grandma. It could be someone’s child,” he said. “I mean, you have to do it. That’s our role as humans.” Bodendorfer is hoping that the attention that’s been brought to how drones can be used to rescue people and animals leads to further funding for his group. They’re hoping to add thermal imaging that would make it easier to spot living beings in rescue situations, making their efforts even more efficient.