Missy on the Mountaintop: The Rest of the Story

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Missy on the Mountaintop: The Rest of the Story

Back in August I posted a blog about Missy, the beautiful German Shepherd dog who was left on a Colorado mountaintop when her paws were too cut up by rocks to walk down with her owner, Anthony Ortolani.  As you may recall, he did not return for her and gave her up for dead.  Eight long, cold days later Missy was rescued after a couple of hikers found her on the mountaintop and enlisted help from a climbing group — who carried the 112-lb dog down the mountain in a backpack.  One of her rescuers has since written a gripping, first-person account of her rescue; I highly recommend it.

I wrote the first blog about Missy after hearing that her original owner had tried to take her away from her rescuers, one of whom wanted to adopt her.  The story had gone viral on the news and the web, and much uproar ensued –with many people apparently feeling that hell should freeze over before he’d be allowed to have Missy back.

Now, given the intensity of initial responses to Missy’s story, I thought I should let you know what has happened since then.

First, Ortolani entered a guilty plea for cruelty to animals last October and was finally sentenced earlier this week to a year of unsupervised probation and 30 hours of community service.  I hope he does the community service at an animal shelter, and I wish the components of the sentence could be reversed — a year of community service and 30 hours of probation.

Second, after a long court battle, one of Missy’s rescuers, John Steed, was allowed to adopt her as one of the provisions of Ortolani’s plea deal.  She has since been renamed “Lucky,” and she lives happily with John and two canine siblings.

Third, public education about compassion toward animals and hiking with dogs took a huge leap forward when Ellen DeGeneres hosted Missy’s team of eight rescuers on her show in September.

Fourth, Missy received a lifetime membership in 14ers.com, which is the climbing group that arranged for her rescue; check out her shirt in the photo below.  And her rescuers received the The Circle of Compassion Award from the US Humane Society.  Well deserved!  I believe that the way we treat our companion animals says a lot about us as humans, and we all stand just a bit taller on account of Missy’s rescuers.

Finally, Missy’s rescuers have formed a new search and rescue organization called The Brothers of Lucky Search and Rescue (BOLSAR for short).  BOLSAR is dedicated to high alpine canine search and rescue in the Colorado Rocky Mountain region.  Learn more and help them if you can:  check out their website and Facebook page.

Missy’s story draws attention to the responsibility that we assume every time we leash up our dogs and head down hiking trails.  In exchange for their love, companionship, and protection, we owe it to our dogs to plan for their needs on the trail.  We should be sure that they are ready for the terrain — which was apparently an issue in Missy’s case, as the trail was rocky and cut up her paws.  And, when stuffing our own backpacks for a hiking adventure, we should also be sure to gather the components needed for our dogs.  American Hiking Society has lists of 10 Essentials of Hiking for both humans and dogs.  Check out the lists so that you can always go prepared on outdoor adventures – and take good care of your human and furry hiking friends.


Leigh Scott

Leigh currently works for American Hiking Society, where she manages AHS’ partnerships with leading outdoor manufacturers and retailers like Eastern Mountain Sports. Leigh has an MBA, a BS in Geology, and certificates in nonprofit management and environmental education. Leigh’s an avid outdoorswoman, a previous girl scout leader, a former community columnist for the Herald-Sun newspaper in Durham, NC, and a past customer service representative at an outfitter’s store in NC.


  1. J. Rigler
    January 28, 2013, 1:08 am

    Thank you for telling the rest of her story. I’m so glad one of the rescuers was able to keep her.

    Too bad her former owner couldn’t have been left alone on a mountaintop injured with no food or water for over a week. He should never be allowed to have another pet. He clearly doesn’t deserve that kind of all encompassing love. I would NEVER leave one of my dogs behind.

  2. Donna Compton
    January 20, 2013, 8:12 am

    I, too, feel sorry for Ortaloni, but never, never could I sleep a single night knowing my dog was on a mountaintop and I didn’t move mountains to find her. Even though Ortaloni made an effort, he accepted failure. Heartfelt thanks to the rescuers for their passion and perseverance and drive. At first, I thought it best that Missy should suffer no more stress and be returned to Ortaloni, but I guess I would always wonder about his passion for his dog. I’m now delighted to know it was one of the rescuers who adopted Missy – you can be sure Missy knows John is the dependable one. Thank you, John, for being there for Lucky, giving her a happy new beginning.

  3. January 17, 2013, 5:04 pm

    It is a good story too read to children before they go to sleep. I am glad Lucky has new loving family.

  4. lisa s
    January 17, 2013, 1:27 pm

    Lucky is for sure LUCKY!!! bless her rescuers!! the one who left her behind should NEVER be allowed to own another dog!

  5. January 17, 2013, 1:08 pm

    In a very small sense, I feel bad for Ortolani, who will pay for a big mistake.

    But in a larger way, I am very happy that he was brought up on charges. It’s easy to make a mistake, but it’s irresponsible to go out unprepared, and neglectful to just leave the animal on the mountain.

    I’m even happier that Lucky has found a good home with people who know how to take care of her.

  6. January 17, 2013, 12:54 pm


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