Couple had to abandoned injured pet at dark; father and son carried |

Couple had to abandoned injured pet at dark; father and son carried

Cliff Thompson

EAGLE COUNTY ” Here’s the rest of the story of the dog rescued by Vail Mountain Rescue team members from the top of Notch Mountain Aug. 7.

It started when a couple, Renee and Juan Otero of Conifer, and their pet dog Cacique took on rugged 14,005-foot-high Mount of the Holy Cross southwest of Minturn. They took the rugged Halo Ridge route. Along the way, Cacique bloodied his paws on the endless boulder fields and was unable to walk. The couple was forced to leave the dog about a mile from the Notch Mountain Shelter.

That’s when a father and son, Patrick and Zachary Twist of Colorado Springs, who were staying at the shelter overnight before summiting Holy Cross the next day, entered the story and found themselves left in the lurch by an unexpected turn of events. Patrick is a software engineer for MCI, and Zachary, 19, is a student at the Colorado School of Mines.


They said they encountered Renee Otero, who tearfully told them about the disabled dog. Twist and his son pulled on their boots and went to find Cacique, a 65-pound border collie mix. Experienced hikers, the father and son have summited three-quarters of Colorado’s Fourteeners.

“He was about a half-mile south of the shelter,” Patrick Twist said. “I’m astonished they got as far as they did with the dog. It’s nothing but boulder fields.”

The Twists carried the dog for three hours over the rugged boulder fields back to the shelter. When they arrived, the Oteros were gone but the dog’s leash and dog food and water were left in the shelter for the dog.

The Twists fed the dog and gave it some of their water, then turned in for the night.

“It was really thirsty,” Twist said. “As long as it had food and water it was OK.”

Twist said the Oteros didn’t have the gear to spend the night at nearly 12,000 feet, so he wasn’t surprised that they had departed by the time they returned to the shelter with the dog.

The next morning, father and son left the dog at the shelter with some food and water. They also left behind a pack filled with extra gear they would not need while climbing Holy Cross. That included a bottle of water for the return down the hill after summiting the mountain. They planned to take the dog down with them.

When they returned, the $300 pack and a pair of trekking poles for hiking steep hills was gone. The contents of the pack lay on the floor of the shelter. And Cacique was gone, too.

“Our uncertainty about what had happened to the dog, combined with the missing gear, was really annoying,” said Twist.

Another part of the dog rescue scenario has played out while the Twists were climbing.

After the Oteros left the mountain, they left a note at the Forest Service office in Minturn explaining their dilemma. The Forest Service contacted the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, which in turn sent out a four-person Vail Mountain Rescue team. That team did not have anything to carry the dog down the mountain, so the group took the pack left in the shelter and stuffed Cacique into it for the seven-mile hike down to the trailhead.

Cacique was reunited with the Oteros Sunday night.

Meantime, the Twists hiked down off the mountain, without the pack and headed back home, believing they were victims of a thief.

It wasn’t until a story was printed about the rescue of the dog that the Twists were able to piece together the chain of events.

“I have no issue with them (the search and rescue team),” Twist said. “Anything can happen in the mountains and when it does, you’re left to your own devices. I just wish people would think twice about taking their animals up there. I’m pleased to have rescued the dog, for the dog’s sake. Everything else was an inconvenience.”

Cacique has healed, according to his owners, and the Twists are waiting for their equipment to be returned to them. The Oteros had planned on giving Cacique to an animal shelter because they discovered their young son is allergic to animals. The hike with the dog was to be a last hike together for the couple and their pet.

Vail Mountain Search and Rescue has rescued four disabled animals from Mount of the Holy Cross in recent years.

Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or

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