Environment

Faithful dog survives 10 weeks, stays with owner who died of hypothermia in Colorado mountains

'If that dog could talk it would be an amazing story... We probably could not even believe the story the dog would tell'

COLORADO — A tiny Jack Russell terrier survived in the Colorado mountains for more than 10 weeks after her owner died of hypothermia, despite the dog losing half her body weight, a rescuer said.

Richard Moore of Pagosa Springs, Colorado, and his 12-pound dog Finney had set out to climb Blackhead Peak east of the town on Aug. 19, but never returned home, the Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office said.

A days-long search of the treacherous and steep western side of the mountain between where Moore’s car was parked and the peak was unsuccessful, said Delinda VanneBrightyn with Taos Search and Rescue, whose search dog joined the effort. From the starting point, the hike to Blackhead Peak gains 2,150 feet in elevation.

When a hunter came upon the 71-year-old’s body in the San Juan Mountains on Oct. 30, Finney was still there with him, despite being down to just 6 pounds, VanneBrightyn said Tuesday.

A recovery crew was flown in the next day. Finney was taken to a veterinarian for a checkup and treatment and is now with Moore’s family, the sheriff’s office said.

Finney’s “magnificent story of survival” is a testament to her dedication and loyalty to Moore, said VanneBrightyn, who has trained dogs for two decades. “Jack Russells are pretty fierce, I have to say, they’re tough little dogs.”

The hunter found Moore’s body about 1.5 miles east of the peak, further away from his car, VanneBrightyn said.

Moore, who was an experienced hiker, died of hypothermia, Archuleta County Coroner Brad Hunt said. Hypothermia can cause people to become disoriented and confused.

But tiny Finney somehow survived, likely by hunting small animals such as mice while also managing to avoid predators like mountain lions, coyotes and bears, VanneBrightyn said.

“If that dog could talk it would be an amazing story,” she said. “We probably could not even believe the story the dog would tell.”

“We are very glad … that Finney was returned to the family because they have lost their loved one, but they still have this wonderful, loyal dog,” VanneBrightyn said.

BY AMY BETH HANSON

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