A German Shepherd survived all odds after spending eight days abandoned on a rocky saw tooth between Mount Bierstadt and Mount Evans in Colorado.
Scott Washburn, who was out hiking with his wife, spotted the dog at 13 000 feet. Washburn states the poor dog was in terrible shape, as she was severely dehydrated and having difficulty breathing.
Washburn and he wife attempted to get the dog to come down the mountain with them.
“I tried to put her over my shoulders. We tried to grab her and move her but the dog was just 100 pounds and there was no way we were getting her out,” says Washburn.
The couple taped the dog’s wounded paws to hold her over temporarily. They also took a picture of her, which they later posted on the website 14ers.com, a forum for hikers. In his post, Washburn informed readers how they found the dog and sought help to rescue her. It wasn’t long before the board was flooded with comments from people who wanted to help.
A stranger to the couple, Brandon Vail volunteered to lead a search party the same night Washburn had posted on the forum. Vail’s response to the growing thread was “A night hike it is.”
“We knew the dog’s life was in jeopardy. We thought if there was something we could do right now, might as well do it. We would have had a hard time sleeping that night if we would not have gone,” said Vail.
At 11:30pm on Saturday night, a group of four experienced climbers began their rescue mission on Mt. Bierstadt. The team searched in the darkness, hoping for a glimpse of the dog’s eyes in their headlamps. Unfortunately, the team had no luck finding the dog.
The hikers, however, did not stop there. The following Monday morning, Washburn led another search team in an effort to rescue the dog.
“Me and my wife had to abandon that dog,” explained Washburn. “But we came back.”
Washburn had gathered a group of eight climbers, who left early Monday morning to search for the dog.
Included in the search was Ralph Kolva, who stated, “Everyone wanted to help and those of us who could did.”
Friends, Alex Gelb and Chase Lindell, joined the search as well.
“The thought of a dog slowly dying on the top of the mountain is tough to stomach. That’s why we went.”
Working through a mean snow squall near the summit of Mt. Bierstadt, the group finally found the dog. The dog was in the same place Washburn had originally seen it, sitting on a rocky saw tooth.
The group decided to call the dog “Lucky”.
As they travelled down the steep mountainside, each hiker in the group took their turn to carry the dog, who rested in a backpack.
The search brought the group of hikers together. Washburn said the group’s love for Colorado’s 14ers and their love of animals made them all fast friends.
“Eight guys who never met each other came together to rescue a dog that they’d only seen in a picture,” said Washburn.
Upon reaching the bottom of the mountain, the group of climbers posted pictures on the message board to let forum members know the dog had been brought down to safety. Cheers of support came pouring in from other hikers.
One post in particular took the group by surprise – it came from the original owner of the dog, Anthony Ortoalni.
Ortoalni came forward, identifying himself as the dog’s owner. He stated that he had left his dog, Missy, when he and his climbing partner were both injured. This incident happened eight days before the rescue mission that took place on Monday.
Ortoalni has apologized for having taken the dog to such a dangerous part of the trail, and is now asking for his dog back. He has also thanked the rescue teams, and praised them for their heroism.
However, a custody battle over the dog has ensued.
“Personally, I don’t believe he deserved the dog, he left that dog for dead.” Washburn’s stated, which sums of the consensus among the group of climbers that saved the dog.
Currently, the dog is in the care of a veterinarian. Despite being severely dehydrated, she is recovering well and doing much better.
The fate of the dog, however, is still up in the air. Animal control will be responsible for deciding who will get to keep the dog.
Check out the follow up to this story here: Update: Man Charged With Animal Cruelty After Abandoning Dog on Colorado Mountain