The Saga of Missy

I have been very moved by the story of Missy the German Shepherd who was rescued from a 14 000ft mountain 8 days after being abandoned by her owner. Who then popped up and wanted her back.

I have experienced internet forum life from many angles. I found my brother (whom I had been searching for for YEARS and not seen since I was 3) when looking on the internet for a job. This was way back in 1994 on a rudimentary bulletin board. In 2001 I joined the Handbag.com discussion forum and shortly after that I became a moderator and then senior moderator. I saw it all – trolls, tantrums and flounces, hoaxes, flame wars, huge fights, heartwarming stories of kindness and compassion towards strangers. In the relationships forum for example, members took hours to counsel and comfort other users. There was a huge bank of expertise available to all users – particularly in the IT forum where people gave advice worth thousands to fellow users with no thought of profit or personal gain.When I was going through a tough time many users combined to send me a huge care package which meant the world to me and got me through a really tough time. We had Secret Santas, Valentines and Easter. I met users at forum meets over the years but then the Handbag forum (originally owned by Boots) was sold and I decided to leave forum life altogether.

I still follow online communities though – the one I am on most is Philofaxy which is a very active blog about Filofaxes – it is actually like a forum contained in a blog and it works brilliantly. I am also a member on The Purse Forum and The Fashion Spot fashion forum.

Anyhoo, the story about Missy plays out thus:

There is a forum called 14ers.com on which this thread was posted at about 8pm on Saturday 11th August. Basically a climber and his wife found a dog stranded on Mt Beirstadt/Evans in Colorado and posted a photo of it. Almost immediately (within 15 minutes) the members of the forum had organised a rescue party. One party started searching at 11.30pm that same night but had no luck. Another climber went on his own the next day and spent all day searching for her. Around this time the forum members were a bit suspicious of this being a hoax. Cue a bit of bickering. Another poster revealed that he had passed the dog with its owner SEVEN days previously. Apparently the dog was in bad shape and really battling even then. The thread starter came back, proved to be as serious as they come…and another search party went out the next day. Eight wonderful guys, most of whom were strangers to each other. They found the dog, brought her down in a 10-hour rescue operation over harsh terrain and in a snowstorm. They took turns carrying this beautiful 100lb pooch up and over the mountain in a backpack.

This dog had been abandoned on the side of a mountain, with injured paws, no food, no water. She lay there alone for eight days and nights, hungry, scared, thirst, in pain, bleeding,confused and probably waiting for her owner to come back and fetch her. Oh wait….

….. next thing the owner, Anthony Ortolani pops up on the same thread, wanting his dog back. Cue disbelief and anger. After this his boss, his sister and his friend wade in. The media gets wind of it. The thread is locked. But not before some beautiful photos are posted of the absolutely gorgeous Missy. Look at those eyes!

The thread (which is really worth a read) is a testament to forum life – community, suspicion, heightened emotions, backlashes. But most of all to the wonderful nature of the human being. My heart goes all mushy at the thought of 8 strangers going three times up a huge mountain to rescue a dog they had only seen in a picture.

Personally I don’t think Missy should go back to her owner. That is what she wants because dogs are faithful and loyal. But he left her up a mountain to die. Kudos to him for appearing on the forum and admitting his mistake though. He is now up on charges of animal cruelty and (not sure if this is coincidence) a member of the 14ers forum will be the prosecutor in the case – shows what expertise hides on hobby forums. What I found interesting was that the owner defended very well the decision to leave her behind but not the decision to abandon her. That is probably indefensible.

Below is a photo of where Missy was found with her location marked with a black square. The rescuers had to climb up, then down to get her and back up and over again to get her out.  That is a long long haul with a big dog.

This is the first post of Missy, taken by Scott Washburn and his wife Amanda. They were on a climb and found her injured and obviously starving and dehydrated but still friendly. They bandaged her paws and gave her some food and water. This is the photo which was posted on the online forum and which started the search.

What a happy dog – she has booties on now to protect her feet and is a friendly, happy loving dog despite her ordeal. Surrounded by strangers but she trusts them to take care of her. After being carried over the mountain she actually walked the rest of the way down.

Getting food, water, love and company after 8 days without. She had a collar on but no name, just a rabies tag.

My favourite. Look at those eyes and that beautiful face. How could anyone leave this beautiful trusting animal 14 000ft up a mountain to die a slow and painful death?

Look at those beautiful warm trusting eyes. Still clear after 8 days without food and water.

Missy being carried down the mountain in a backpack

Happy to be safe and loved

Happy to be on the way to safety.That guy is carrying 100lbs of dog in that backpack!

A snowstorm hits. Apparently she would not have survived another night out there.

Down from the mountain at last. You can see blood from her paws on the blanket and her food and water next to her. She was also obviously happy enough to be on a lead.

With the rescue team who believed in her. At the front are Scott Washburn (right) and Chase Lindell who apparently did  an absolutely fantastic job carrying her.

I will reiterate the final post (by Scott Washburn the person who found the dog)  on the thread before it was locked.

I would like to acknowledge and thank all of the other members of the rescue team who took time out of their lives and cared enough to attempt this rescue: Alex Gelb, Stefan Kleinschuster, Ralph Kolva, Chase Lindell (who pulled off one of the most outstanding feats of strength and endurance that I have even seen), Chris O’Riley, John Steed, and Christoph Tomford. What they accomplished was no small feat and if you know these men or ever run across them be sure to shake their hand and buy them a beer. This rescue would not have been possible without all of their combined efforts. They are heroes, every single one.

I would also like to thank our veterinarian, who is one of the nicest and kindest men I’ve ever met; Brandon Vail, who organized the search party that went up Saturday night; and Erik Willcutt, who spent all day Sunday scouring the mountainside looking for Lucky/Missy. There were many other individuals who participated in this rescue and their efforts are greatly appreciated.

The thread is well worth a read, even if just to see forum life at its best and its worst.



Categories: Animals

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3 replies

  1. That is an amazing story. I cannot fathom abandoning my dog on a mountain. A few years ago, I had to carry one of my dogs when her paws were injured on hot rocks. It was the only thing to do. But for a group of strangers to get together through an internet acquaintance and rescue this dog is amazing. Thanks for sharing the tale in compelling fashion.

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