SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — Riley, an 8-year-old sheltie, is back home after he walked off his property and went missing for more than five weeks.
“He was my wife’s dog, so he always sleeps on her pillow. She passed away in January,” Mike Krugman, Riley’s owner, said.
Krugman said his property is completely fenced in with a 5-foot-tall fence. But on April 8, when Riley went out for his regular roam in the fenced area, they had just had a ton of snowfall.
“We got a lot of snow that day, sure enough, I walked to the far south side of our property and we didn’t have a fence it was 100% covered in snow,” Krugman said. “I’m assuming he walked over the fence and kept walking.”
He reached out to Summit Lost Pet Rescue for help in searching for Riley. He said weeks went by and hope was dwindling when he received a miracle phone call from the Humane Society of Summit County.
“Then five weeks and a day later I get a call from the shelter, somebody found him,” Krugman said.
A hiker, who just moved to Summit County within the last year, Zachary Hackett, found Riley on a hike on May 14.
“I wasn’t supposed to be in that area,” Hackett said, “it was random.”
Hackett said he was trying to go to a different trail area but kept hitting obstacles with the recent heavy moisture.
“There was these swamps and it was like Mother Nature was like no you can’t go that way,” Hackett said.
He said the sun was starting to set so he knew he had to turn around and go back the way he came. He said he even had to avoid a private property area eventually leading to a portion of the mountain that was open, possibly washed out.
“I heard the smallest little yip and at first I was startled cause you don’t know what is behind you,” Hackett said. “Then I said wait a minute that’s a dog. There shouldn’t be dogs up here.”
Hackett approached little Riley slowly. He said he quickly realized how weak Riley was, not even able to walk on his own. He said he knew right then he was carrying Riley the 4 miles back down the mountain, on tough terrain.
“That little yip, I’ll never forget it. That was him saying help me,” Hackett said.
The duo hiked all the way down, Riley in hand, even having to cross the swift Blue River. Hackett said all he could think about was not dropping the fragile dog.
“He traveled 4 miles and up,” Krugman said. “We live at 8,200 feet and he was found at 12,000 feet.”
That night, Hackett said things were touch and go and he and his girlfriend were ready at any moment to take Riley to an ER vet in Denver. But Riley made it through the night and they took him to the Humane Society of Summit County.
“It was hard for them to find Riley’s lost dog post because it had been so long,” Hackett said.
Krugman picked up Riley and took him to the vet. Riley stayed at the vet for three days on an IV.
“He was around 24 pounds before he went missing and when I weighed him at the vet he was 12.6,” Krugman said. “He lost at least half his weight.”
It’s a story of survival no one will ever hear but a different story shared between two strangers now connected through one lucky dog.
“I don’t understand how he lived,” Krugman said. “Someone had to be looking out for him, maybe it was my wife.”
If you’ve lost a pet, the nonprofit Summit Lost Pet Rescue has a list of tips you can do to try and find your pet.