The Ultimate Adventure Companion
Two men struggle with a dog. The rocks are large and unstable, her paws are shredded, and a storm is coming. They lower her from boulder to boulder. Each time she touches down, she lands in pain. The clouds are growing, and now she doesn’t move. So one man drapes her across his shoulders. He jumps from boulder to boulder on blistered feet, and he drops her. They give her the last of their water. Then, they leave.
She couldn’t walk, but she could wait. At first, for her owner, then for the couple that found her on the verge of death—and vowed to bring her down the mountain alive. They returned expecting to carry her the entire way. She refused. After surviving eight days and seven nights alone at 13,000 feet, Missy traveled the final miles of Mt. Bierstadt as she had climbed them—under her own power.
Missy is now called Lucky. And she is a celebrity. But in the early hours after Scott and Amanda Washburn found her, she was just a nameless German Shepherd with paws more like bloody ribbons of flesh and a case of dehydration so severe that her saliva was blue. The Washburns tried to carry her down, but they didn’t have the strength—the terrain was just too taxing. So they bandaged her paws, and left her with water. And they made their way off the mountain.
“We figured we’d find a Park Service Ranger to help us carry her out,” Scott says. But the first Ranger they met dashed their hopes. He said they couldn’t risk people to save a dog. The Washburns would have to let nature run her course.
Amanda wasn’t willing to accept that answer. So on their drive back to Denver, she called everyone she could think of—from animal control to search and rescue—to no avail. Out of ideas, they went to the 14ers forum, an online community of hikers.
Scott made the first post. It included a picture of Lucky along with a description of her condition and information where she was found. He asked people to give Lucky food and water if they came across her, and he gave out his phone number to organize a rescue.
Within half an hour, his phone was ringing. People offered advice and help. Online, they expressed their suspicions. Scott’s area code was from San Mateo, California. Had he really been on the mountain? And his post was made only minutes after he first joined the site. Was it all a sick hoax?
Brandon Vail didn’t think so. He saw the post at 8:00 p.m. and had a gut reaction. “I knew I needed to do something, and I knew I had to do it right now,” he says. After all, had it been his dog up on the mountain, he’d want someone to do the same. At 9:30 p.m. he made three calls—one to a friend, and two to strangers who had offered their help on the thread.