A three-day search for Dudley the dog brought countless people together over New Year’s weekend during a whirlwind adventure that brought out the best of people in Peekskill and Cortlandt.
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While Tim and Leigh Noakes were on vacation, Dudley was relaxing on the couch and enjoying his best life at home on Locust Avenue in Cortlandt, until he slipped away through a slightly ajar door from his pet sitter.
The tale begins in the early afternoon of Saturday, December 30th as the Noakes’ were sitting down to a meal hours away from their home. They received a call from their neighbor who informed them that he just saw Dudley escape their house and yard.
Tim and Leigh said they felt like they received a gut punch but were reassured knowing that Dudley had on an AirTag. They finished their meal and, headed back to the hotel, packed their bags, checked out, and began the journey home to Cortlandt much earlier than expected.
Throughout the 500-mile drive, they conversed with friends and family and checked the Apple AirTag data they had placed on Dudley’s harness for his location.
As they pulled into the driveway after their seven-hour drive, they looked at each other and immediately knew what the other was thinking, ‘let’s go look for Dudley.’ Even though they were exhausted, the couple began driving up and down the Bear Mountain Parkway, and in and out of neighborhoods on the east end of Peekskill that borders Cortlandt Manor.
As the night advanced and the wear of the day wore on them, the Noakes decided to call the search off for the evening and head home.
In the predawn of Sunday, December 31st they set out for another search. “We drove up and down the Bear Mountain Parkway fearing at every turn that Dudley may have been hit by a car. “That was my worst fear,” said Leigh. “As we drove the parkway we scanned the border of the woods in the hopes of seeing him in the bush so we could call out to him and he could come running to us and we could head home.” But that wasn’t to be either.
Around 8:00 am, family and friends gathered at their house to come up with a plan of action to search and find their beloved Dudley. Tim and Leigh checked the information they had from the AirTag data and realized it was very spotty and only a few pings came through with a location hours apart from each other.
Friends and family flooded local Facebook groups throughout Peekskill and Cortlandt and Lost Pets Facebook groups with Dudley’s name and information on it. Others went around local neighborhoods and put flyers up. More friends and family as well as strangers who just wanted to help and joined in the search parties and went around local neighborhoods, developments and wooded areas searching for Dudley.
During the morning Tim and Leigh received a call from a neighbor on Benefield Boulevard. The tipster said, “In the middle of the night my Nest Cam went off and I checked it. There was a dog that looked like Dudley walking right through my front yard.” Sure enough, when Tim and Leigh checked the video, it was Dudley.
As the day carried on, occasional but inconsistent pings from the AirTag would come through. Each time that happened or a tip came through, the Noakes would send out a mass text with the information to the search parties.
That afternoon the Noakes received a tip from a caller in Cortlandt saying they just saw Dudley on Rancho Drive. A few hours later they received another tip saying they saw Dudley near Edinburgh Drive in Peekskill. Each time the search parties flew into action into the areas where the tips and pings were coming from. The tips and pings from the AirTag kept sporadically coming along, but there was still no success in finding Dudley.
That evening as thousands of people gathered in downtown Peekskill to count down the New Year’s Eve Ball and friends and families gathered in homes throughout Cortlandt, Tim Noakes hiked through the woods near the Bear Mountain Parkway with a headlamp on his head looking for Dudley.
“I could hear the faint sounds of crowds of people in the far distance in downtown Peekskill counting down from 10. I could hear the sounds of houses nearby as the TV was on and people were hustling and bustling and then counting down Three! Two! One! Happy New Year! Here I was in the still quiet of the woods looking for my beloved Dudley. There was such a dichotomy, I cannot explain how drastically different our worlds were at that moment in time,” recalled Tim.
As the evening lingered on and the tiredness crept in, Tim decided he needed to get out of the woods and head home to try and get a few hours of sleep.
The next day, the Noakes received a phone call from Kevin Dever of Momo’s Rescue who gave them very helpful information as well as what to do when they do find Dudley. “Dever mentioned things like don’t look Dudley in the eye or yell his name loudly as he may take it as a threat and will run away from you. He also mentioned that if you do see him, sit down and let the dog come to you rather than walk towards the dog. He may see you walking towards him as a threat.”
One of the Noakes’ friends casually mentioned to them, “if the dog keeps coming up sporadically with the AirTag and there are a bunch of wooded areas, then why not hire a drone company to help assist in the search for Dudley.” The Noakes thought it was a great idea. Their friend mentioned that they had heard of others doing it up in the Mahopac area at one point but couldn’t remember when. They quickly did a Google search and found out that it was Michael Coyne and his company called Heatseeker Drone Services.
In February of 2023, Michael Coyne turned a hobby and passion into a business. In 2019, Michael became an FAA certified drone pilot. Over the course of the next few years, he bought and flew drones in his free time and continued to gather experience and perfect the craft of flying a drone. Around 2015, thermal technology became available to drones. However, it was extremely expensive, only available in the commercial market and was an emerging technology. Over the course of the next eight years, thermal drone imaging technology advanced tremendously as did drone technology. Around 2022, the technology became more affordable to the consumer market.
In February of last year, Coyne bought one of the most advanced semi-affordable thermal drone systems on the market, the DJI Mavic 3 Enterprise Series. He hoped he would be able to help government and local agencies with things such as counting the deer populations and the like.
Only two weeks after he started his company, a dog went missing in Mahopac, and a family called on Coyne to help locate the missing dog. In a very short time, he had his Heatseeker thermal imaging drone in the air and quickly located the missing dog. Within a few days, the entire area knew about Heatseeker Drone Services. Within weeks, the business took off and people call almost daily to help find missing pets.
The Noakes called Coyne and within a few hours, Coyne had his drone in the air covering double the amount of surface area that the search parties on the ground were covering. From high above the treetops, the heatseeker thermal imaging drone looked down onto a vast array of wooded land along the Bear Mountain Parkway. Unfortunately, on January 1st, there was no success in finding Dudley.
At 6:15 in the morning of Tuesday, Jan. 2, the Noakes got a call from Coyne, “let’s give it another try. I am already on my way over to your place.” The couple was beginning to feel downtrodden because they hadn’t received any pings from the Apple AirTag overnight. Ever optimistic, Coynel told them, ‘don’t worry, we’ll find Dudley.’
As they prepared to send the drone up in the air, Coyne placed Tim and Leigh on a three-way call. All three of them would be in different locations so that if they spotted Dudley, they would be able to triangulate and get to Dudley quicker.
Within 20 minutes of the Heatseeker thermal imaging Drone in the air, Coyne picked up a heat image lying curled up next to an old rock wall in the woods behind King Buffet. Coyne zoomed in, turned the thermal imaging setting off and turned the HD camera vision on. As he zoomed in as close as he could, flying from high atop the trees, he saw a green harness, the words DUDLEY and the Noakes’ phone number on the vest. Tim and Leigh left the locations they were at and set course to the location that Coyne told them.
Tim got there as fast as he could to the location; Leigh was not far behind. As Tim approached the spot that Coyne guided him too, he realized he needed to be quiet because he didn’t want to scare Dudley away.
When Dudley heard the sound of the leaves and branches crackling under Tim’s boots, he sprung up and began running the other way from Tim.
Tim’s heart and mind were racing as fast as a car in the Daytona 500. Dudley continued running away from Tim and Tim was terrified that Dudley would run into the Bear Mountain Parkway. Tim swiftly ran towards the Parkway to try and cut off Dudley.
Tim’s plan worked and Dudley ran away from the Parkway and further into the woods more towards where Leigh began to enter the woods from a different direction.
Over the course of the next 2 hours, the Noakes and Coyne tried to rescue Dudley. As Dudley zig zagged through the woods, and dangerously back and forth over the Bear Mountain Parkway, cars flew by and Dudley even realized that the Bear Mountain Parkway is not a safe place to be for cars or dogs. Eventually, Dudley stopped running away.
Tim and Leigh both deep in the woods now were directed by Coyne on that three-way call. Tim recounted the final moments saying, “I remembered what Kevin Dever told me about rescuing Dudley when I finally found him. He said sit down, and wait it out. Don’t look him directly in the eyes as that can show a sign of aggression. Let Dudley’s natural curiosity take over and let him come to you. And that’s what I did. My heart was racing and all I wanted was for Dudley to come over to me so we could embrace and go home. I saw Dudley and I had to go against my instinct and just sit.”
Leigh did the same in another spot of the woods. At one point Dudley was within feet of Leigh and once he saw her he ran off scared. “Dudley turned and came my way. I just sat and gently called his name. After what seemed like ten minutes, Dudley slowly walked over and at first circled around me. Then once he got within 15 feet of me I could literally see a switch go off. He realized it was me. He ran over to me and hugged and kissed me. His tail never stopped moving and his butt never stopped wiggling. I was crying and was just soo happy I finally had Dudley in my arms.”
Today, Dudley is now safe at home and in the arms of his family and lying warm and comfortably on the couch again. After some time of sleeping and relaxing on the couch, hugging up on his family in between naps, and getting some of the best meals of his life, the adrenaline finally wore off and the Noakes feel at ease.
Even though Dudley had a few scrapes, bruises and cuts, the veterinary team at the North Westchester Veterinary checked him out and allowed him to return home without any issue.
“We are beyond grateful to everyone in helping us with finding Dudley. From the shares on Facebook, to the phone calls with tips, to strangers I didn’t even know who happen to drive by me and ask if I was Dudley’s dog parent and said they were on a drive out looking for him, we want to thank each and every one of you who helped. We are all in the same community and everyone is willing to support each other; friends, family and so many kind strangers. There is just so much love. It is truly amazing how everyone came together to help look for and rescue our dog. We can’t say it enough, Thank You!”
For more information and to check out other great rescue stories visit Heatseeker Drone Services on Facebook.