Loyal Dog Stayed Beside Missing Hiker’s Body for 7 Weeks in San Juan National Forest

A 14-year-old Jack Russell terrier named Finney wouldn’t leave her owner after he died in a remote part of Colorado
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rich moore and finney pagosa springs colorado
Rich Moore, 71, and Finney, 14, set out for a hike near Colorado's Blackhead Peak on Aug. 19. Ladona Willis / Facebook

The body of missing hiker Rich Moore of Pagosa Springs was discovered late last month in a remote part of Colorado’s San Juan National Forest. Moore was discovered with his Jack Russell terrier, Finney, who was still alive and had refused to leave her owner. Moore, 71, went missing while on a hike near Blackhead Peak on Aug. 19. 

An unidentified hunter contacted the Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office on Oct. 30 to report a body and a small white dog he’d seen at a distance, presumably through an optic. The discovery was made in the lower Blanco River drainage basin, according to the Denver Post. The next day, a rescue team that included the personnel from the sheriff’s office and Upper San Juan Search and Rescue flew into the area. Finney, 14, was immediately transported to a veterinary hospital for examination and treatment. 

“We are all heartbroken over the loss of Rich, but are glad he has been located and overjoyed that Finney has returned home to [her family],” the San Juan Outdoor Club, of which Moore was a member, wrote in a recent newsletter.

The Taos Search and Rescue team conducted the majority of the search efforts for Moore after he was declared missing in August, but eventually the search effort was called off. Friends and family continued to spread word of his disappearance on social media. 

“Rich is an experienced hiker and Finney is a very strong well behaved dog so it’s not understood how this happened,” Ladona Willis, a friend of Moore’s, wrote in a Facebook post on Aug. 29. “Please pray for them and their family.”

While foul play is not suspected, a cause of death has yet to be determined, the Washington Post reports.

Jack Russell terriers are considered “notoriously fearless” and “bold, friendly, active and alert” by the United Kennel Club. They are also known to be fiercely loyal to their owners. Other stories of dogs staying with their deceased owners have cropped up over the years, but most of those incidents involved the dog surviving just a few days or weeks on its own before being rescued. 

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While it is unclear how long Moore survived and looked after Finney in the wilderness, responders believe she lasted roughly seven weeks on her own, meaning she must have found reliable sources of food and water to stay alive after Moore died. The weather in nearby Pagosa Springs tends to range from the high 40s to the low 70s, although it was likely colder on the mountain where Moore and Finney were discovered.

Search and rescue officials logged roughly 2,000 hours of cumulative efforts looking for the duo, 9News reports.