Missing Colorado Hiker Found Dead, Dog Alive Beside Owner

A California hiker who went missing almost three months ago was found dead with his loyal dog lying beside him alive.

Rich Moore, 71, of Pagosa Springs, headed to Blackhead Peak on August 19 with his Jack Russell terrier, Finney, but the duo never returned home.

Blackhead Peak has an elevation of 12,500 feet and is located east of Pagosa Springs in Colorado.

The mountain was so steep that rescue crews were airlifted by helicopter just below the mountain’s peak. The search moved west toward the trailhead, where Moore’s car was found parked, the search and rescue said.

Aerial, ground and K9 teams conducted their search for over 2,000 hours in the Blackhead Peak area, the Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office said.

A hunter discovered Moore on October 30, about 10 weeks after he had gone missing. He was found at least two and a half miles east of the mountaintop with Finney by his side.

Taos member Delinda Vanne-Brightyn reported that Finney had lost nearly half of his body weight, but was in generally good health when he was discovered.

Vanne-Brightyn believes that Finney likely survived on water from nearby underground streams and by capturing small animals such as field mice or chipmunks.

Vanne-Brightyn was part of the initial search party for Moore.

“It just brings us all to tears the loyalty of that dog,” she said.

This is not the first incident where a hiker’s dog stayed true until the end. Last year, search-and-rescue teams in Arizona recovered the body of 74-year-old hiker Donald Hayes, whose dog Ranger stayed with him despite being severely dehydrated and exhausted.

Chaffee County Search and Rescue North reported that Moore was unprepared when he made it to the peak. He was only wearing a hooded cotton sweatshirt and had no food or water left.

Moore was a member of the San Juan Outdoor Club.

“We are all heartbroken over the loss of Rich,” the group wrote in their newsletter, “but are glad he has been located and overjoyed that Finney has returned home.”

The cause of Moore’s death has not been determined yet, but foul play is not expected.

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