The body of a 71-year-old hiker who went missing in August was found in the southern Colorado mountains and his loyal terrier, which had survived in the wilderness, was still at his side, a rescue group said.
Rich Moore embarked with his Jack Russell Terrier, Finney, on August 19 with plans to summit Blackhead Peak – a 12,500-foot peak in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. He never returned, the Taos Search and Rescue group said in a Facebook post.
Moore, who was from nearby Pagosa Springs, was missing for about 10 weeks until a hunter stumbled across his remains on October 30, about 2 1/2 miles east of the mountain top. Finney was alongside him, according to the volunteer rescue group.
Finney had lost about half of his body weight when he was discovered but appeared to be in relatively good shape, according to Taos member Delinda Vanne-Brightyn, who responded to the initial search for Moore.
“It just brings us all to tears, the loyalty of that dog,” she told CNN on Monday.
Moore died of “exposure/hypothermia,” according to Archuleta County Coroner Bradley Hunt. It was not possible to determine Moore’s date or time of death, said Hunt.
Vanne-Brightyn joined the search for Moore with her certified K9 shepherd, AkioYodasan. Search and rescue crews looked for Moore several times, beginning at the mountain peak and moving westward toward the parking lot where he had left his car, she said.
Parts of the mountain are so steep that the crews had to be flown in by a helicopter, she recalled. She noted hiking the summit is an “extremely rigorous” undertaking.
The weather was bright and sunny on the day Moore went missing, Vanne-Brightyn said, noting an avid hiker should have been able to see where his car was parked from the peak.
“[It] defied all of our lost person behavior that he went over the other side of the mountain,” Vanne-Brightyn said.
CNN has reached out to the Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office for information on Moore’s cause of death.
Vanne-Brightyn believes Finney likely survived on water from nearby underground streams and by capturing small animals such as field mice or chipmunks.
The dog was taken into custody by the sheriff’s office animal control division before being returned to his other owners, a division spokesperson told CNN.
Dogs can be ‘loyal to death,’ expert says
Certified dog behaviorist and trainer Russell Hartstein says it’s “not unheard of” for a dog to develop such an intense loyalty to its owner.
“They become loyal to the death a lot of times,” Hartstein told CNN Monday.
Jack Russell terriers, in particular, are bred to survive by hunting rodents or other small animals, he noted.
It isn’t the first time a missing hiker has been found dead with their furry companion still by their side.
Last May, 74-year-old Donald Hayes went missing while hiking a mountain near Prescott, Arizona, with his dog, Ranger, local authorities said in a 2022 release.
When Hayes’ remains were found almost a week later among the rugged terrain, Ranger was alive and assumed to have remained with his owner the entire time, officials said. The dog was brought to a local animal hospital for treatment, the release said.