Hiker Hears Cry For Help On A Mountain And Solves A Months-Long Mystery

In mid-May, Zachary Hackett was on a solo hike on a mountain in Summit County, Colorado. He’d gone off the trail and was about to turn back before the sun set. But just before beginning his descent, he heard something strange coming from behind a few fallen trees.

“I was not on a trail, and I was hastily backtracking the way I came because it was getting dark and the preferred routes off the mountain were impassable due to the conditions,” Hackett told The Dodo. “[Then,] I heard a slight ‘yip.’”

He turned toward the sounds and saw a dog shivering behind a tree. It was clear that the poor pup hadn’t eaten anything in days.


Hackett approached the dog very slowly and used comforting words to help the pup stay calm.

“The closer I got, the more I realized how weak he was,” Hackett said. “He was too weak to stand up, run from a predator or forage for food. He could barely lift his head … I realized that the small bark was probably some of his last remaining energy and was a cry for help. His demeanor was, ‘Please, I need help.’ I could feel it.”

So, Hackett bundled the dog up in his windbreaker and began carrying him down the mountain.


What Hackett didn’t know was that the dog he was trekking down with was an 8-year-old sheltie named Riley who’d gone missing five weeks earlier.

Riley had wandered off after an early-spring snowstorm had compromised the fence in his backyard. His dad, Mike Krugman, was devastated when he realized Riley was gone. He immediately contacted Summit Lost Pet Rescue (SLPR) to aid him in the search for Riley.

“Our SLPR team and the owner initially searched the owner’s 36 acres of property (both on foot and [with] the help from the community using their personal drones), which was a challenge due to the deep snow conditions,” Melissa Davis and Brandon Ciullo, the directors, cofounders and mission coordinators of SLRP, told The Dodo in a joint statement.

“We also started a social media campaign on our Facebook page right away and shared multiple posts which cover all of Summit County … just in case Riley got picked up and taken out of the county,” they added.

Staff and volunteers for SLPR worked tirelessly for over a month looking for Riley in nearby neighborhoods and trail systems. Their search efforts included ground sweeps, posting signs, as well as social media posts and setting up “scent stations.”

“When dogs get lost, their instincts kick in and most of them go into fight-or-flight mode, which means they often are very skittish, run nonstop, even run away from their owner, and they rely heavily on their senses, like smell,” Davis and Ciullo explained. “We use scent stations, such as the owner’s dirty clothes, their dog bed, dirty towels or sheets that smell like their owner or a sibling dog [or] cat.”

“These smells help the lost dog and give them a place of orientation to smell and come back to,” they added. But sadly, this didn’t work.


Somehow, some way, Riley had wandered up the nearby mountain and, as Hackett observed, was having a hard time finding food and water needed to survive. Riley was incredibly thin and his nose was dry and chapped. He could barely keep his eyes open on the hike.

“Dehydration is an understatement,” Hackett said. “It took us about two hours to get back down the hill and cross the river.”

Hackett took Riley back to his house, where he bathed him and gave him plenty of water, which Riley drank “at a very slow rate,” Hackett said. “After about four hours of taking care of him, he finally stood up on his own power, but his legs were extremely weak. His condition was still poor enough the next morning that we took him to [Summit County Animal Shelter] right away, [with] zero hesitation.”


Hackett then contacted Summit County Animal Control Officer Catherine Adair, who immediately recognized Riley.

“When Zach brought Riley into the Summit County Animal Shelter, I couldn’t believe it was the same dog we had been looking for for over five weeks,” Adair told The Dodo. “Riley was wrapped in a blanket and clearly exhausted.”


After a quick examination, Adair said that Riley had low body temperature but appeared stable.

“I called Mike and said, ‘Someone just brought Riley in — are you able to come to the shelter now?’ Mike said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m on my way.’” And when Riley’s dad walked in the door, Riley wanted so badly to get up and see him but was too weak to go to him.

“Mike bent down and scooped up Riley, holding him closely,” Adair said. “Mike thanked us and said the staff at Breckenridge Animal Clinic were waiting for them.”


“The reunion was overwhelming for me,” Krugman told The Dodo. “Riley was too weak to do anything but lick my face all the way to the vet.”

Once there, Riley was given plenty of fluids and had his blood taken daily while in the vet’s care to ensure his “off-the-chart” potassium levels came down.

Krugman told FOX31 Denver that Riley weighed about 24 pounds before he went missing, and by the time Hackett found him, Riley only weighed just over 12 pounds. It’s truly a miracle that Hackett found him where and when he did.

Thankfully, the stars aligned and Riley was saved by a true hero and is now able to be back home, safe and with his dad.