Finney the Jack Russell terrier was safely reunited with her family following her astonishing rescue.
The loyalty of man’s best friend should never be underestimated.
On August 19, 71-year-old Rich Moore left his home in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, with his loyal Jack Russell terrier, Finney. Moore planned to summit Blackhead Peak, which towers 12,500 feet above sea level and requires an “extremely rigorous” hike to reach the top.
It was a warm, clear day, and Moore was an “experienced hiker” according to those who knew him — but something went wrong. When Moore and Finney failed to return home that evening, loved ones reported them missing. Despite an extensive search mission, rescuers were unable to locate the duo.
Moore died up on the mountain, but Finney refused to leave his side. She survived for more than two months until a local hunter stumbled upon Moore’s body near the Lower Blanco drainage basin on October 30. Authorities were able to recover Moore’s body the following day.
“It just brings us all to tears the loyalty of that dog,” said Delinda Vanne-Brightyn, a member of the search and rescue team that initially led the search for Moore’s body, in an interview with CNN.
While Finney had lost more than half of her body weight, she was otherwise healthy. She likely survived on water from nearby streams and by hunting small animals like mice and chipmunks.
Archuleta County Coroner Brad Hunt told The Washington Post that Moore died of hypothermia. He was wearing only a cotton hooded sweatshirt, and temperatures at high elevations can reach dangerously low levels even in August.
“Even though the weather in Pagosa Springs was fairly nice, it was fairly cold up in those mountains,” Hunt said.
Vanne-Brightyn said the peak was so steep that she and her certified K9 search dog had to be inserted into the area by helicopter during their search back in August. The search and rescue team started just below the mountain’s peak and moved west toward the trailhead, where they found Moore’s abandoned car.
The team spent a cumulative 2,000 hours searching for Moore and Finney before the search was called off. The hunter ultimately found them more than two miles east of the peak, in the opposite direction of the search. It’s unclear why Moore headed that way. “[It] defied all of our lost person behavior that he went over the other side of the mountain,” Vanne-Brightyn told CNN.
According to Hunt, “Basically, he got up into the hiking area and looked as though he had gotten disoriented.”
Though Moore’s story had a tragic outcome, those involved in the search are clinging to Finney’s survival as a silver lining to this devastating loss.
“Delinda and TSAR (Taos Search and Rescue) would like to send our condolences to the family, but are glad they were able to gain some closure as well as bring their dog back home,” TSAR wrote on Facebook.
And the San Juan Outdoor Club, of which Moore was a member, wrote: “We are all heartbroken over the loss of Rich, but are glad he has been located and overjoyed that Finney has returned home.”
Heartwarming messages of support have also been pouring in on social media.
“So sad, and yet so beautiful that the little Jack Russell stayed with him for all these weeks… Sometimes tragedies remind us of the bond between man and his best friend,” one person wrote on Facebook.
Another comment read, “There is no love like the unconditional love of dogs. Such faithfulness.”
After reading about the loyal dog who stayed with her owner’s body for more than two months, discover the story of Timothy Shaddock and his dog, who were rescued after being stranded at sea for two months. Or, learn about the remains of the hiker missing since 1986 that were found in the Swiss Alps.