DA Early Honors Harvard Firefighter For Finding Lost Dog by Using Personal Drone in Search

March 27, 2023

For Immediate Release

Contact: Scott J. Croteau (508) 368-7228 or (774) 418-5706

HARVARD – Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. today recognized the actions of a Harvard Firefighter who used his knowledge of drones and compassion for helping people to find a dog who had become stuck in the woods overnight.

Harvard Volunteer Firefighter Robert Curran was presented with the District Attorney’s Team Excellence and Merit – TEAM Award – for his efforts in December 2022 when he helped a woman reunite with her pet.

“First responders show their care and commitment to the communities they serve in a variety of ways,” Mr. Early said. “Firefighter Curran, a dog owner himself, knew the desperation someone feels when their pet – a member of their family – is missing. He used his knowledge of drones, a skill he uses for the town, and decided to act with his personal drone for one reason, to help someone in need. It is the hallmark of first responders.”

On Dec. 17, 2022, Karen Hsu was walking her Shiba Inu, Toro, around her Devens neighborhood. The pooch got free and ran off. Family searched for the dog but had no luck finding him overnight.

The following day, Curran saw a notification about Toro on a social media app. As a member of the Harvard Drone Team, which was created by Police Chief James Babu, Curran knew his drone training could help.

He messaged the number on the missing dog poster and told dog owner’s daughter, Vicky Hsu, he would use his personal drone to help search for her mother’s dog.

Her mother was devastated. The family was worried about the young dog being outside overnight in the cold and near wildlife.

“It is just one of those things that as a firefighter and as a dog owner, I can relate to people desperately looking for their dog,” Curran said.

With the drone in flight, Curran began searching in a circular pattern not far from the Fort Devens Museum parking lot.

Using thermal imaging, Curran spotted a white spot on the camera. He then zoomed in.

“There he was. I could see the fur and the red collar,” Curran said.

Toro’s leash was stuck in some brush. Curran called the family and when they arrived, he guided them to Toro.

Vicky Hsu said she was overwhelmed by everyone who searched for Toro.

“I was just in shock and so grateful,” Vicky Hsu said after Toro was found. “I honestly don’t think we would have found Toro without Robert. Toro is part of the family. It could have easily been a worst-case scenario of never finding him. Without Robert, we wouldn’t be here today.”

Harvard Fire Chief Richard Sicard said the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency helped with grant funding in order to support the town’s drone program.

“We have seen the usefulness of this tool for multiple different emergencies, and we see it growing going forward,” Chief Sicard said.

The TEAM Award was created by Mr. Early in 2019 to recognize public safety employees who go above and beyond the call of duty. Contact the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office at (508) 755-8601 to nominate someone for this award.


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