On August 19, a man named Richard Moore set out to hike to the top of Blackhead Peak, just east of Pagosa Springs, Colorado. With him was his 12-pound Jack Russell terrier, Finney. Tragically, Moore would never return home.
In the days that followed, search parties combed the 2,150 feet of elevation that Moore and Finney were climbing when they vanished. The trail they were on wound its way up a steep, treacherous part of the mountain, and ultimately, the hunt failed. But on October 30, more than two months after they disappeared, a hunter stumbled across Moore’s dead body. And Finney was there, too — but the dog was still alive, and hadn’t left its owner’s side except to find food and water.
According to Delinda VanneBrightyn with Taos Search and Rescue, Finney likely survived by hunting for small game like mice and rats. “Jack Russells are pretty fierce,” VanneBrightyn said. “I have to say, they’re tough little dogs.”
An autopsy concluded that Moore, who was 71 years old and by all accounts an accomplished hiker, died of hypothermia. He was found 1.5 miles east of the peak he was aiming for. Finney had lost half of his weight during the 10 weeks on the mountain, and likely needed to avoid other predators and scavengers, like bears, coyotes, and mountain lions.
“If that dog could talk it would be an amazing story,” VanneBrightyn said. “We probably could not even believe the story the dog would tell.”
The day after the hunter found Moore’s body, a recovery crew was flown in. Finney was taken to a vet for a checkup, and is now with Moore’s family. “We are very glad … that Finney was returned to the family because they have lost their loved one,” VanneBrightyn continued, “but they still have this wonderful, loyal dog.”