Riley, an eight-year-old Shetland sheepdog, was spotted by hiker Zach Hackett after he heard a small "yip" in the woods.
A Shetland sheepdog named Riley spent five weeks lost in the Colorado Rocky Mountains before being rescued by a hiker and reunited with his family.
Riley’s owner, Mike Krugman, told the CBC that he had let Riley out to go to the bathroom and play outside on April 8.
Usually, Riley would run around the rural property before returning to the house for dinner. On this day, Riley didn’t return.
“We had five feet of snow in the last couple of days, and I’ve got a five-foot fence surrounding our entire property,” Krugman told the CBC. “I walked to the south end of the property, and lo and behold, I do not have a fence. It’s completely covered.”
Krugman believes Riley must have wandered past the fence and got lost in the surrounding wilderness.
For weeks, Krugman printed missing posters for Riley and spread them around town, hoping that someone would find his beloved dog.
Fortunately for both Krugman and Riley, hiker Zach Hackett was that someone.
On May 14, Zach Hackett was hiking up a mountain when he heard a faint cry from the woods.
“The best way I can explain it is a little, ‘Yip.’ It wasn’t a bark. It wasn’t a cry. It was kind of in-between,” Hackett told CBC’s As It Happens podcast. “It was kind of like, ‘Hey, I’m over here. Look at me. Help me. Save me.'”
Then, he spotted Riley tucked away in some brush next to a fallen tree. He looked emaciated and scared, and Hackett knew he had to take him with him.
“I never had a question in my mind. I mean, if you see somebody in need, you help them no matter what, whether it’s an animal or a human,” he said to CBC. “If I even considered leaving him, I don’t think I’d ever be able to sleep again.”
New to the area, Hackett had no idea Riley was the famous missing dog plastered on posters all over town. He also had no idea Riley had wandered nearly four miles from his home.
From what he could tell, Riley was a shivering, weak pup who could barely stand.
“I think he had been sitting in that position for quite a long time,” Hackett said to CBC. “I honestly believe that was his last day up there.”
Hackett wrapped Riley in blankets and carried him through the rugged terrain. The duo even crossed a treacherous river at one point in the journey.
Throughout the entire ordeal, Riley seemed grateful that Hackett had rescued him.
“He didn’t scramble and he wasn’t trying to jump out of my arms. He didn’t make a single noise,” Hackett said.
By the time Hackett made it back to his apartment, it was already dark. Hackett and his girlfriend decided to feed the pup, bathe him, and give him a warm place to sleep before taking him to a shelter in the morning.
At the shelter the next day, workers there told Hackett that Riley had been in the mountains for a month.
“My heart dropped and I started bawling,” Hackett said.
“Just nothing made sense. The fact that he survived that long, the fact that I found him. Like, the chances that I was even up there that day, it was just, the whole situation was way bigger than me. And it emotionally just took everything out of me.”
After the shelter confirmed Riley was healthy despite his ordeal, it contacted Krugman to initiate a heartfelt reunion.
At the sight of his dog, Krugman knew Riley would have a long recovery ahead of him.
“He was around 24 pounds before he went missing and when I weighed him at the vet he was 12.6,” Krugman told KDVR. “He lost at least half his weight.”
“I don’t understand how he lived,” Krugman said of Riley, who belonged to his late wife, who passed away from a heart condition in January. “Someone had to be looking out for him, maybe it was my wife.”
Today, Riley is almost entirely back to normal.
Riley has “totally recovered and is back to being the Alpha dog now,” Krugman told Summit Daily.
After reading about Riley’s incredible rescue, discover the story of Hachiko, history’s most devoted dog. Then, read the story of Balto, a heroic dog who helped save an Alaskan village from a deadly epidemic.