Hiker Hears Distressed Cries and Solves a Mystery With a Heartwarming Reunion

By: Stephen Thompson | Last updated: Sep 27, 2023

In the rugged landscapes of Summit County, Colorado, Zachary Hackett’s solitary trek took a turn when he heard a faint cry echoing through the trees. Little did he know that this encounter would lead to an incredible reunion, closing a mystery and warming hearts. 

Join us as we look into the heartwarming story of how a hiker’s compassion resulted in the return of a lost dog.

Zackary’s Encounter with the Whimpering Dog

In mid-May, Zachary Hackett was hiking alone in Summit County, Colorado, when he heard a strange sound behind fallen trees. He discovered a shivering dog who had been without food for days.

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Source: Summit Lost Pet Rescue, Inc./ Facebook

Approaching the dog slowly and using comforting words, Hackett realized how weak the dog was. The small bark he heard was a plea for help. Feeling the dog’s despair, Hackett wrapped him in his windbreaker and carried him down the mountain.

The Dog Was in Poor Condition

Describing the dog’s condition, Hackett said there was no energy left in him and he was very much aware that he was in trouble. “He knew he needed to be rescued. So that little ‘yip’ was the only exertion of energy he had that night. It was a, ‘Hey, save me,’” Hackett revealed.

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Source: unodosbeardman/ Instagram

Hackett didn’t ponder for a second whether he was going to save the dog or not.  The question for him was never “Should I?” Instead, he asked himself how he must go about it.

Riley was a Lost Dog…

Unaware to Hackett, the dog he discovered was Riley, an 8-year-old sheltie who had been missing for five weeks after escaping from his backyard during a snowstorm. His owner, Mike Krugman, was devastated and sought help from Summit Lost Pet Rescue (SLPR).

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Source: Summit Lost Pet Rescue, Inc./ Facebook

Despite challenging snow conditions, SLPR and Krugman initially searched his property and used drones provided by the community. They also launched a social media campaign. The search efforts lasted almost a month, with no sightings.

A Heroic Rescue

Riley was frail, with a dry nose and strained eyes. Zachary wasted no time providing the care Riley desperately needed, bathing him, and offering him much-needed hydration. Although Riley’s legs were weak, he eventually regained strength. 

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Source: Summit Lost Pet Rescue, Inc./ Facebook

Recognizing the urgency, Zachery contacted Summit County Animal Control Officer Catherine Adair, who immediately recognized Riley. He then promptly brought Riley to the Summit County Animal Shelter.

Reunion and Recovery

Adair quickly contacted Riley’s owner, Mike, who hurried to the shelter. Riley, too weak to go to his dad, was held by Mike, who thanked the rescue staff before heading to the vet.

Source: Summit Lost Pet Rescue, Inc./ Facebook

Riley received fluids and daily blood tests at the vet to address his high potassium levels. Riley’s rescue was nothing short of a miracle, and he is now safely back home with his grateful dad, thanks to the heroics of Zachery and other dedicated rescue workers.

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Riley Belonged to Krugman’s Late Wife

Krugman explained that Riley was one of his six beloved dogs. He belonged to Pam, his late wife, who passed on earlier in the year. He mentioned that Riley was still dealing with shock from her demise and could not wrap his head around her sudden absence.

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Source: unodosbeardman/ Instagram

“I think he’s still adjusting, expecting her to walk in, but it isn’t going to happen,” Krugman said.

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The Boss of the House

Despite being the smallest of the dogs that made up Krugman’s household, Riley was an “alpha dog,” and “boss of the house.”  He used to nip at the other canines and run away before they could retaliate.

Source: unodosbeardman/ Instagram

Riley also had a habit of running at the end of the night. But Krugman was never worried about that because he thought his fenced 36-acre house was secure enough.

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Holding Out Hope

Usually, Riley will reach the end of the asphalt or walk to the barn and return to the house. But that cold April night, he walked but didn’t come back. After thoroughly searching the property with no sign of him, Krugman had to enlist the help of the SLPR who had volunteers looking for Riley.

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Source: unodosbeardman/ Instagram

After searching for 6 days with no sign of Riley, the team had no choice but to rely on the public. Despite his fear that Riley couldn’t have survived the harsh weather for that long, Krugman said that the group held out hope all the way.

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As Fate Would Have It

Meanwhile, Hackett, a native of Michigan, had moved into his new home in Breckenridge after the pandemic. He was exploring the mountain for the first time when he randomly met the stranded dog.

Source: unodosbeardman/ Instagram

“It was just so random that I ended up there. It was random that I just decided to hike that day. I was kind of just wandering.” It was a coincidence that Hackett found Riley just in the nick of time.

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