A man who made the wrenching decision to leave his injured dog on a mountain in Colorado now faces animal cruelty charges after other hikers rescued his German Shepherd.
Anthony Ortolani and a friend were hiking Mt. Bierstadt with the dog, Missy, but ran into trouble when the dog got hurt. In Ortolani's words:
Missy was hurt during an attempt at crossing the Sawtooth. It was Missy, a friend and I. Her paws got bloodied up right in the belly of the sawtooth. I was assisting her with the climb using ropes and a harness for a while but she kept getting hurt worse. A few kind hikers stopped and offered some assistance but incoming weather pushed people off of the saddle. My friend and I realized that we could not get Missy up the saddle to Evans or Bierstadt safely so we decided to bail off of the saddle into the valley between the two mountains to escape the incoming clouds. We were lowering her for a while with ropes from boulder to boulder but she was hurting herself worse against the rocks sprawling out and catching them with her legs. Eventually she just stopped standing or moving at all and I knew she was pretty badly hurt. I picked her up on my shoulders and was hopping from boulder to boulder but I couldn't keep her on me. I dropped her once and I almost fell once too and I realized that I couldn't carry her off of the mountain. At this point I made the decision that I honestly never thought I would even be faced with. I left her there so that my friend and I could get down safely with intentions of calling S&R when we were off of the mountian."
When Ortolani and his friend finally made it safely off the mountain and called 911, however, they discovered that Mt. Bierstadt rangers are not allowed to send rescues for dogs.
Missy wasn't seen again until two hikers discovered her six days later. They, too, were unable to rescue her, but they posted a picture of the dog on a popular hiking website, which eventually prompted an eight-person volunteer crew to make a successful rescue — despite a snowstorm.
The incident has sparked an outpouring of opinions. Ortolani goes to trial in October.
Photo: Missy, the German Shepherd, as photographed on Mt. Bierstadt by hikers. Credit: 14ers.com