‘Miracle dog’ recovered after 72 days in Colorado mountains following owner’s passing: ‘Ravenous appetite’

A devoted canine, who endured over 10 weeks alone by her owner’s side in the Colorado mountains after he succumbed to hypothermia during a hiking expedition, has successfully regained most of the weight she lost during the challenging period. The family revealed on Thursday that she is now back on the trails.

Rich Moore, a 71-year-old resident of Pagosa Springs, Colorado, embarked on a hike to Blackhead Peak with his Jack Russell terrier, Finney, on August 19 but never returned. Despite days of searching between the peak and his vehicle, no trace of him was found.

It wasn’t until October 30 that a hunter discovered Moore’s lifeless body along with the fiercely protective Finney in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. Finney had shed about half of her body weight, and her ribs were visible, according to officials.

Less than three weeks later, “Finney is doing well,” Moore’s wife, Dana Holby, told The Associated Press on Thursday. “She has gained almost all of her weight back and her strength is almost where it was. She is the miracle dog.”

She does have an injury on her snout that might leave a scar, Holby said.

“She is now 3, very clingy and will not let me out of her sight,” Holby said. “Her ravenous appetite has calmed down, but at first she could not get enough to eat and wanted food at all times of the day and night.”

Finney’s survival story has made her famous on the hiking trails around Pagosa Springs, Holby said.

“People say, ‘Is that Finney?'” to which Holby responds with an enthusiastic,”Yes!”

“She is such a comfort to me and a great companion on hikes,” covering 4 to 5 miles a day, Holby said.

“I know that she was with Rich to the very end and somehow that should be a comfort. I don’t know how she did it, but she was there when he needed her,” Holby said.

This image provided by Dana Holby shows her Jack Russell terrier Finney on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023, in Pagosa Springs, Colo.

Delinda VanneBrightyn, a volunteer with Taos Search and Rescue, joined the search effort with her search dog.

Finney’s “magnificent story of survival” is a testament to her dedication and loyalty to Moore, said VanneBrightyn, who has trained dogs for two decades. “Jack Russells are pretty fierce, I have to say, they’re tough little dogs.”

This image provided by Dana Holby shows her Jack Russell terrier Finney on Oct. 31, 2023, in Pagosa Springs, Colo., shortly after returning from the mountains. 

Finney’s tale of resilience represents the third documented instance of a dog being discovered alive alongside a deceased hiker since the previous year. In May 2022, a Labrador was found beside the body of a 74-year-old Arizona man who had passed away during a hiking excursion.

The preceding month, a 29-year-old hiker who had gone missing was found lifeless in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park, with his loyal dog by his side. Family members noted that it seemed the dog had steadfastly remained by his side for two weeks.

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