The Tragic and Uplifting Saga of a Gentleman and His Jack Russell Terrier

The air hung heavy with the scent of pine and the hush of anticipation. Richard Moore, his weathered face etched with the wisdom of 71 years, adjusted his pack and glanced down at his furry companion. Finney, a Jack Russell terrier with a heart as big as the Rockies themselves, mirrored his master’s gaze and excitement. The destination: Blackhead Peak, a 12,500 behemoth of granite 35 miles outside their home in Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

It was the morning of August 19th, a day now etched in the soul of the San Juan Mountains. It was a day of adventure, of man and dog exploring with the wild symphony of nature. But the symphony took a discordant turn when neither returned home that evening. Dana Holby, Richard’s wife feared the worst.  Days bled into weeks, the mountain’s silence amplifying the growing fear. Rich and Finney, two souls intertwined, had vanished.

Hope, a fragile flame, flickered in the face of the improbable. The loud voices of the many search parties were being swallowed by the immensity of the peaks. Yet, in the heart of the storm, a tiny ember refused to be extinguished.

Finney, a scraggly warrior with eyes that held the wisdom of a thousand hikes, wouldn’t surrender. She was more than a pet; she was Rich’s shadow, his confidante, his furry guardian angel. And with the unwavering loyalty of a best friend, Finney clung to hope.

She became a mountain lion of a dog, surviving on scraps and grit. Finney hunted chipmunks with the ferocity of a wolf, her spirit as mighty as the granite she traversed. She stood guard by Rich’s remains, a silent sentinel against the encroaching wilderness.  Finney persevered for the next 71 days.

Then on October 30. Officer Robert Hill was in the sheriff’s office when a message came through. The message, from a hunter on horseback, said he had found a body and a dog on a wooded ridge on Blackhead Peak.  Officer Hill assumed they had both succumbed to the harsh conditions of late autumn in the San Juan Mountains.

Sheriffs quickly arranged for a search helicopter and flew up to the ridge but it was already late afternoon and the sun was going down.  They didn’t see Richard or Finney.  They did however scout a landing spot for the chopper. The next day, crew members and a K9 rescue dog were airlifted onto the ridgeline at about 7500 feet elevation. After some searching, they saw Moore’s body. Beside him was Finney, gaunt and tired — teeth bared, hair raised, and ready to attack.  Amazing.

Finney barked at the rescue team. They coaxed her with a can of wet dog food they had laced with a sedative prior to the flight. The rescue team collected Moore’s body and his beloved dog Finney, and flew the 35 miles back to Pagosa Springs.

News of the loyal Jack Russell spread like wildfire. Finney became a symbol, a beacon in the face of loss. She embodied the mountain’s spirit, the fierce love that transcended even death. She was a reminder that even in the remote wilderness, where there is no forgiveness, the smallest heart can hold the fiercest flame.

Finney’s survival story will echo through the ages. A testament to the enduring power of love and the unwavering spirit of man’s best friend.  The sheriff’s office has yet to publish an official cause of death, but rescuers stated that Richard Moore had likely died of hypothermia. He smashed his glasses and was lost, stranded on a steep ridge on the eastern side of the peak, far from the trail.  His body was found about 500 yards from the farthest boundary of the search area.

Jack Russell Terriers Are Bred For Survival

The Jack Russell Terrier Club of America publishes the following warning on its website for would-be owners of the dogs:

First and foremost these are hunting dogs. Many experienced dog owners are overwhelmed by the demands of a Jack Russell Terrier, leading to the dogs being abandoned even before they reach adulthood.

Bred to hunt foxes and small rodents, these dogs are known for their tenacity, need for constant exercise, and aggressive temperament. They are also wildly individualistic, says Alison Cook, a longtime breeder who runs Kimberlite Jack Russell Terriers in Hayward, California. “We’re extraneous to them in many ways—they don’t need us,” Cook says. “When you do form a bond with a dog like that it’s much more special.”