JAN. 15, 2013 UPDATE: Anthony Ortolani was sentenced today to one year of unsupervised probation along with 30 hours of community service, according to 9News.com.
SEPT. 17, 2012 UPDATE: Anthony Ortolani has reached a plea bargain in which he’ll plea guilty to a lesser county ordinance violation rather than an animal abuse charge, and give custody of Missy to one of the rescuers, according to 9News.com. In a press conference Sept. 16, he said he’d received death threats from around the world for doing what he thought was the right thing for his dog. Missy’s rescuers appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” on Sept. 17.
As Anthony Ortolani hiked with his friend and his German Shepherd, Missy, on rugged terrain near Mount Bierstadt, Colo., on Aug. 5, the dog’s paws became so badly blistered that she could no longer walk.
Ortolani carried Missy for a while. He tried lowering her with a rope, but that made her bump into rocks, injuring her even more. As a storm approached, Ortolani and his friend left Missy on a rocky ridge at an elevation of about 13,000 feet. He said he later contacted a search-and-rescue group and the sheriff’s department, but was told the storm was too severe to send a rescue party.
Nearly a week passed, and Ortolani did not return to the mountain to retrieve Missy. He did not post flyers at the trailhead or use social media to notify hikers of his stranded dog.
On Aug. 11, as they hiked up Mount Bierstadt, Scott Washburn and his wife, Amanda, were shocked to come across the abandoned German Shepherd.
“We knew we weren’t going to be able to get her out by herself,” Washburn told Good Morning America. “Her paws were completely raw and her elbows were torn up. My wife broke down crying at the thought of leaving the dog to die.”
They bandaged Missy’s bleeding paws and left a bowl of water for her. That night they posted a photo of the dog in a forum on 14ers.com, a website for climbers of Colorado peaks that are higher than 14,000 feet.
Barely an hour later, concerned forum members were volunteering to climb the mountain with rescue equipment. Some went that night, but did not see the dog. On the morning of Aug. 13, Washburn led a group of seven volunteers to rescue Missy.
Despite a heavy snowstorm, the group persevered, and found Missy. She was too weak to walk, so the rescuers – who named her Lucky — put her in a backpack and took turns carrying her.
“She started squirming in the pack, so we let her out and she walked like a champ the rest of the way,” Alex Gelb, one of the rescuers, wrote in the 14ers.com forum. “Considering what she had been through, she was in remarkably good health/spirits. … To think that such a gentle, sweet dog was abandoned and left to die in the mountains breaks my heart.”
A veterinarian examined Missy and told Washburn she was the “miracle dog of the century” because, despite of her eight-day ordeal, she had no serious injuries.
After the rescue, Ortolani posted a comment in the 14ers.com forum, thanking the volunteers for saving his dog’s life and expressing his remorse at leaving her behind. He said that his feet had been too blistered to go back later to find his dog, and he assumed she had died.
Following a sheriff’s office investigation, animal cruelty charges were filed against Ortolani on Friday.
“We base that on information we learned that the dog had been up there for eight days in this rugged terrain,” Sgt. Rick Safe, an officer with the Clear Creek County sheriff’s department, told KUSA-TV. “The weather had been inclement on certain days with rain and snow, and the fact [is] that he made little attempt to go back up and get the dog or try to make any other arraignments to retrieve the dog and get it back.”
Missy is recovering at the veterinarian’s office. There have been heated discussions on 14ers.com and other online forums regarding whether Ortolani should be allowed to keep his dog. Washburn and other members of Missy’s rescue party have expressed interest in adopting her, but Clear Creek County Animal Control will have the final say on Missy’s forever home.
Ortolani is scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 16. Scott Turner, the attorney who is prosecuting the case, happens to be an avid hiker and a member of 14ers.com.