Rich Moore – A Colorado hiker who had been missing for months was recently found dead with his dog alive by his side, according to authorities. Rich Moore, 71, and his 14-year-old Jack Russell terrier, Finney, had been missing since Aug. 19 when they did not return from a trip to Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. Moore had planned to reach the 12,500-foot summit of Blackhead Peak, which is about 20 miles from where he lived in Pagosa Springs, Colo., according to the Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office.
After search-and-rescue teams spent nearly 2,000 cumulative hours searching for Moore, a hunter spotted the man’s body and a white dog in Lower Blanco drainage basin more than two months later on Oct. 30, Sheriff Mike Le Roux said in a news release. The hunter alerted authorities, and search-and-rescue teams were able to locate, retrieve and identify Moore’s body on Oct. 31, the sheriff’s office said. Taos Search and Rescue (TSAR), which conducted the initial search, confirmed in a Nov. 7 Facebook post that Moore was found dead while Finney was alive.
Archuleta County Coroner Brad Hunt told The Washington Post that Moore died of hypothermia. Hunt, who noted that no foul play was involved, added that an autopsy was not performed because of the condition of the body when it was found.
“Basically, he got up into the area hiking and looked as though he had gotten disoriented,” Hunt said. “Even though the weather in Pagosa Springs was fairly nice, it was fairly cold up in those mountains.” Finney was transported to a veterinary hospital for an examination and treatment, and was reunited with her family, according to the sheriff’s office. Authorities have not said how the dog survived for months.
Blackhead Peak is a rugged peak in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado and is part of the San Juan National Forest. Bloggers and outdoor enthusiasts have described how “Pagosa Springs locals praise Blackhead Peak in tones of reverence and joy.”
“They tell of glorious swaths of tundra rising gently and culminating on a broad summit with far-reaching views of the South San Juan Mountains,” an outdoor enthusiast wrote in a blog post last year.
Stories of dogs grieving the loss of their owner or a fellow canine friend have been documented over the years. While there is still no scientific literature on a dog grieving for its dead owner, a study published last year found that dogs grieve when one of their fellow dogs dies.
Dog owners in Italy reported negative changes in behavior in a dog living in the same house as a recently deceased canine friend, saying that the pets ate and played less and sought more attention, according to the study published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Delinda Vanne-Brightyn, a member of the TSAR crew that searched for Moore and Finney, said on Facebook that teams searched down the mountain toward where the man’s car was parked. She noted that the area was so steep that the search-and-rescue team needed to get there by helicopter. “He was found 2.5 miles East of the mountaintop beneath where we were inserted,” Vanne-Brightyn said.
Hunt said it did not take long for the coroner’s office to conclude that hypothermia killed Moore. Identifying the man was relatively easy since rescuers were able to find his backpack and identification, and were able to match the clothing he was wearing in August, Hunt said. “And of course, Finney was still by his side,” he told The Washington Post.
When authorities were flown to the designated landing zone by the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, they retrieved Moore’s body and Finney, and were able to fly him off the mountain, the sheriff’s office said.
“Delinda and TSAR would like to send our condolences to the family, but are glad they were able to gain some closure as well as bring their dog back home,” TSAR wrote on Facebook. The sentiment was echoed by the San Juan Outdoor Club, which Moore was a member of, according to the Denver Post.
“We are all heartbroken over the loss of Rich, but are glad he has been located and overjoyed that Finney has returned home,” the group wrote in its newsletter this month.