Last month we brought you the story of Missy, the German Shepherd who had been abandoned in an unusual place: near the top of 14,000-foot Mount Bierstadt, outside Denver. Her owner, Anthony Ortolani, had been hiking with the dog and got caught in a squall; the dog, with injured paws, wasn’t able to make the trip back down, and Ortolani wasn’t able to carry her down.
So he left her there. And he never went back up to find her.
Missy made it down, thanks to the efforts of an ad-hoc rescue group that formed after seeing Missy’s photo on the message board 14ers.com, which another hiker — not Ortolani — had posted. Missy had spent eight days on the mountain, without water for food. But she survived.
And Ortolani wanted her back.
That set off an Internet firestorm, with the rescuers and the hiking community expressing outrage that the man who abandoned his dog to die, then did the minimum amount to rescue her (he called authorities, who wouldn’t risk going up the mountain in a storm if no humans were in danger) would demand the dog be returned to him.
Then the Clear Creek Sheriff’s Office announced it would charge him with animal cruelty, according to Denver Westword, further eroding his rights to the dog.
“The dog was basically abandoned up there,” stated Sgt. Rick Safe of the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office, according to Life With Dogs. “He [Ortolani] made no initial attempt. After three days, he thought the dog was deceased so he made no attempts to reclaim the dog.”
Since then, Internet outrage hasn’t let up. A Change.org petition launched under the title “Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office: Please do not allow Anthony Ortolani to reclaim Missy, German Shepherd,” quickly gained nearly 3,700 supporters. Comments on sites like 14ers.com and Life With Dogs — and on Dogster, too — overwhelmingly criticized Ortolani’s actions and pleaded for the dog to be given to the rescuer who wanted to adopt her.
This week, Ortolani finally said he would do just that. Although, to be sure, he is giving up his dog to save his own skin as part of a deal, in which he’ll plead guilty to a minor violation to make the animal abuse go away.
No matter: Missy will finally go to the home she deserves, to someone who braved a blizzard and his own safety to save her from certain death. The rescuers, all eight of them, appeared on Ellen this week: