Some of you are probably following the Saga of Missy, the injured 100-pound German Shepherd dog who was abandoned on a 13,000 feet mountain peak in Colorado and rescued eight days later by a group of volunteers.
Right now the story is full of emotionalism, allegations, charges and countercharges, but it will be interesting to see how the story plays out in October when it comes to court.
The story addresses many questions of the relationship between humans and dogs. Central to the story is the internet.
According to the dog’s owner, Anthony Ortalani, he was forced to leave the dog in early August as a storm was moving in. The dog couldn’t walk because of blisters on her feet and he was concerned for the safety of a young hiker who accompanied him.
He was told that official search and rescue teams respond only to calls to help humans. He couldn’t go back up the mountain himself because his job took him out of town.
Days later Scott and Amanda Washburn found Missy hungry and dehydrated on a pile of bloody rocks when they were hiking in the area away from the trail. They bandaged her wounds and gave her food and water while they went for help.
When they were told that no official rescue could take place, they posted her picture and asked for help from 14ers.com, a social networking site for mountain climbers.
A team of eight volunteers answered the call for help. Rain turned to snow which made the rescue even more perilous. They were able to rescue the dog eight days after she was left behind by rigging slings and backpacks and taking turns carrying the injured 100-pound dog off the mountain.
Ortolani stepped forward to claim his dog.
"I am ashamed that it wasn't me who got her off of the mountain, I underestimated the good will and resolve of the hiking community of Colorado, and I am eternally grateful," Ortolani wrote on a 14ers.com message board.
This has sparked an angry debate on the website over whether he deserved to get his dog back. The Washburns want to adopt Missy for themselves.
"We understand that he had to leave her there," Scott Washburn said. "My wife and I did the same thing. But we ended up going back for her, and we went to some pretty extreme lengths to do so. In my opinion, that is not a responsible dog owner, who doesn't really care about her."
Authorities seem to agree or perhaps are giving in to public pressure. They have charged Ortolani with animal cruelty. He is scheduled to appear in court on October 16 when this can all be sorted out.
In the meantime Missy is being cared for by a veterinarian who reports that she should have no permanent injuries from the ordeal. She is in surprisingly good shape considering what she has gone through.
I realize public agencies are not wallowing in money. But across the country we have seen multiple instances of trained, equipped responders helping “just a dog” because they realize how important dogs are to their owners.
And they also realize that there are many untrained good Samaritans willing to step in and endanger their own lives.