After 5 weeks missing in the mountains, a Park County dog was presumed dead. And then good Samaritans intervened.
Following a month frantically searching for his lost dog, Alma resident Larry Osborne acknowledged that he had given up hope of ever finding Chloe after she disappeared on popular Colorado 14er Mount Bross.
As the owners of the South Park Saloon nearby, he and his wife, Anouk Patel, put the entire town on alert that the 14-year-old lab-pit bull mix went missing the fourth week of August. The year-round population of about 300 people kept an eye out, but as the five-week mark passed since she vanished, no one expected that they’d ever see her again.
“I’d told our son the dog had died,” said Osborne, who held a memorial for Chloe in late-September. “I mean, how the hell could anyone survive that?”
But remarkably, on Sept. 22, she finally made it home. The 90-pound hound had dropped upwards of two-thirds of her body weight, her nose had gone white and her coat pale, but it was definitely Chloe.
“It was a pretty emotional moment,” said Osborne of the first time he and Patel put eyes on the dog. “Even when she’s sitting next to me on the couch now, it’s still crazy to look at her, like, How did you manage to do that?’”
Without the steadfast aim of good Samaritans Trinity Smith and her boyfriend Sean Nichols, also of Alma, it almost certainly wouldn’t have happened. The couple, who previously lived in Breckenridge for two years after moving from Florida, read posts on the hiking website 14ers.com on Sept. 20 about climbers who thought they heard a barking dog while completing the DeCaLiBron Loop — Mounts Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln and Bross — and felt compelled to go search.
Smith, 28, who along with Nichols had only started tackling the state’s iconic peaks this summer, checked DeCaLiBron off her list just a couple weeks prior finished up work that Thursday, laced up her hikers and headed out to the summit of Bross. As dusk settled in and her cellphone dying, she at long last heard the cries of a dog.
Unable to see the animal or get to a hard place where the whimpering was originating, she posted to Facebook page One Man’s Junk Summit County and enlisted the help of Breckenridge local Mark Whiteside. The two didn’t hear the whining again, and were unsuccessful in their hunt once total darkness arrived.
On Friday, Smith returned with Nichols after another attempt by Whiteside that morning turned up nothing. For four hours, and as the weather turned and clouds rolled through and made it difficult to see, they scoured the area calling and yelling for what they still didn’t officially know was a dog.
“We still hadn’t heard anything and we were giving up because it started snowing,” said Smith, who works in property management services in Breckenridge. “We were sitting on the rocks and I started crying. We started to walk away, and that’s when we heard the first bark of the day.”
Nichols, 28, shimmied up the vast scree field on the north face of Bross when the dog made enough noise to give him a sense of its location. Eventually he saw it poke its head up high enough to where he could confirm it was stuck on a large boulder and unable to hop down. Nichols, an employee at Alma’s Al-Mart general store, did the rest.
Scaling the loose rock, he eventually grasped the dog and slid down the steep chutes on his butt. Unfortunately the collar Nichols had pulled off Chloe and stashed in his pocket came off in the tear down the hill, so they didn’t know who might be her owner.
Overjoyed, they drove to Al-Mart before they planned to head to a veterinarian when one of Nichols’ coworkers, astonished, said she thought she knew to whom the dog belonged. She dialed up Osborne, who’s roadhouse is located down the main drag and he sprinted over worried it might be his 1-year-old puppy, having long believed Chloe was gone.
“He was there within 20 seconds,” said Nichols. “When he realized I had Chloe he just broke down. He thought she was dead because six weeks out in the woods is no joke.”
Following the tearful rejoining with Patel, the spirited Chloe to the vet and shockingly she was found only to be severely dehydrated and malnourished. A minor injury on her backside otherwise from sitting on the boulder has almost healed too, and she already gained 10 pounds back over the weekend.
“There were no problems with her organs, everything checked out and she’s eating her food and on the road to recovery,” said Osborne. “She’s good to go, basically. I know that sounds crazy.”
Relatively new to Alma, neither Smith nor Nichols knew to be on the lookout for the dog, or that Osborne and Patel live just down the road. And following the heroics, they each call the other a friend for life and celebrated Chloe’s recovery late into the evening.
“We went to the saloon and drank all night,” said Smith. “Pretty much the whole town came and thanked us. Everyone was just in shock, they were giving me hugs and crying on my shoulder. It was pretty awesome, and now I have a whole bunch of Alma friends.”
Circus Bella, out of San Francisco, is here through Sunday at Nottingham Park in Avon. The acts feature no animals, only human-powered entertainment.