A small Jack Russell terrier survived in the Colorado mountains for more than 10 weeks after his owner died of hypothermia, despite losing half his body weight, a rescuer said.
Richard Moore of Pagosa Springs, Colorado, and his 12-pound dog, Finney, set out to climb Blackhead Peak east of town on Aug. 19, but never returned home, the Archuleta County Sheriff's Office said.
A days-long search on the treacherous, steep western side of the mountain between where Moore's car was parked and the peak was unsuccessful, said Delinda VanneBrightyn of Taos Search and Rescue, whose search dog joined the effort. From the starting point, the hike to Blackhead Peak gains 650 meters (2,150 feet) in elevation.
When a hunter found the 71-year-old man's body in the San Juan Mountains on Oct. 30, Finney was still there with him, despite weighing only 6 pounds, VanneBrightyn said Tuesday.
A recovery team arrived by plane the next day. Finney was taken to a veterinarian for a checkup and treatment and is now with Moore's family, the sheriff's office said.
Finney's "magnificent survival story" is a testament to his dedication and loyalty to Moore, said VanneBrightyn, who has trained dogs for two decades. "Jack Russells are pretty fierce, I must say, they're tough little dogs."
The hunter found Moore's body about 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) east of the peak, farther from his car, VanneBrightyn said.
Moore, who was an experienced hiker, died of hypothermia, Archuleta County Coroner Brad Hunt said. Hypothermia can make people disoriented and confused.
But little Finney somehow survived, probably hunting small animals like mice while also managing to avoid predators like mountain lions, coyotes and bears, VanneBrightyn said.
"If that dog could talk, it would be an amazing story," he said. "We probably couldn't even believe the story the dog would tell."
"We are so happy... that Finney is back with the family because they lost their loved one, but they still have this wonderful, loyal dog," VanneBrightyn said.