Scott Washburn and his wife Amanda discovered Missy on August 11, wounded and near-death atop a mound of bloodied rocks.
They gave her food and water and tried to get her out, using their first aid kit to bandage her wounds, but the animal’s paws were too damaged for it to walk.
They posted a photograph of Missy on the 14ers.com, a social network for mountain climbers.
Immediately, dozens of people tapped into her plight and opted to organize a rescue for the dog - at the same time, wondering who could be so cruel as to bring an animal to the top of a mountain and leave it there.
Eight volunteers banded together to rescue Missy, launching a nine-hour mission to find and recover her. They found her just before a snowstorm was settling in and put her in an over-sized backpack to remove her from her perch.
A veterinarian volunteered to take her in and found that the dog miraculously had no fractures, no internal injuries nor other permanent damage from the ordeal.
'Her survival and shear will to live are astounding by any measure,' Mr Washburn said.
The Washburns grew attached to the dog, but that’s when her owner, 29-year-old Anthony Ortolani entered the picture - happy his dog had been saved and embarrassed he wasn’t the one who came to her rescue.
'I am at a complete loss of words. My gratitude for the people involved in this is without measure,' Mr Ortolani posted on 14ers.com.
He asked for the name of the clinic Missy was being treated at so he could be reunited with her and reimburse them for healing her.
Reading the mounting messages of disdain for his treatment of the dog, he explained his actions.
'Missy was hurt during an attempt at crossing the Sawtooth. It was Missy, a friend and I,' he said.
Her injuries made it impossible for her to walk, so the two hikers tried to lower her from boulder to boulder with ropes, but she was getting hurt worse and worse.
'Eventually she just stopped standing or moving at all and I knew she was pretty badly hurt,' he said.
'I picked her up on my shoulders and was hopping from boulder to boulder but I couldn't keep her on me.'
They spent two hours trying to get her down, but with encroaching clouds and mounting fear, they made the difficult decision to leave her behind.
'I called the 911, the sheriff's office and search and rescue and I was told that it was to risky for them to send rescue crew up there for a dog,' he said, adding that 'thinking about her suffering was awful beyond words' and that he convinced himself she had died of her injuries to cope with the guilt of leaving her.
'All I can say is that I am relieved that she is okay,' he said on the message board. 'I am ashamed that it wasn't me who got her off of the mountain, I underestimated the good will and resolve of the hiking community of Colorado, and I am eternally grateful.'
He said that in the days after he left her, he searched the internet for ‘dog found on Bierstadt’ every days, but didn’t find anything.
He had just about given up hope when he read about her heroic rescuers and her good fortune.
'I can't bring you all there to when I made that choice and what was going through my head. My kids, my friends son, a lot. I do know that I do want my Missy Girl back. I also know that there are many people that think I don't deserve her back. I can tell you that she would be very happy to see me. I have learned a lot and I am convicted to never let this happen again. Missy is getting another chance, I am asking the same,' he said.
However, now that Missy is in the care of the local law enforcement, things aren’t that simple.
Mr Washburn thinks that Mr Ortolani is an unfit dog-owner and that he can offer a better life to Missy.
He said that he understands Mr Ortolani’s choice to leave her, but not his choice not to return.
'My wife and I had to abandon her as well. When we found her on Saturday we knew that we would be unable to bring her out ourselves and with extremely heavy hearts we left her on a rock knowing that she may die,' Mr Washburn said.
'Despite being forced to abandon her, we came back for her.'
The Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the case, not to decide who the dog’s rightful owner is, but whether or not Mr Ortolani is guilty of cruelty to an animal.
adoptpets: The rescuers clearly deserve to have custody of the dog. The original owner left his dog up there and then didn’t even bother to try to return to rescue the dog. He just assumed she was dead. What a complete ass! Bringing her up the mountain the original owner was the one who put her life at risk in the first place. He had a responsibility to get her safely down the mountain. Instead, all he did was save his own ass and tell himself the dog was dead so he could relieve the guilt. He clearly is not responsible enough to be a dog owner. The rescuers are heroes and have demonstrated love that the original owner lacked.
Great news! Man who left Missy the German Shepherd on mountain to save his own life takes heavy blow in battle for custody of dog as he is charged with animal cruelty.