A senior citizen of a dog that managed to get himself stuck on some slippery slopes in Colorado National Monument this week is back home with his owner, thanks to the help of some local residents and a monument ranger.
Thomas Morin was reunited with Pablo, a collie mix, after seeing him posted on the website of Mesa County Animal Services.
Morin is temporarily living in Grand Junction at a rental property in the Redlands area, and Pablo disappeared from his yard early Tuesday morning. Morin said the yard’s fence is short, but he didn’t think Pablo, with his “little, arthritic legs,” could jump it.
He’s also surprised that Pablo navigated around pasture fences in the area, reached the monument fence that Morin said is maybe a 10-minute walk from where he’s staying, and found his way around that fence and up to where he was found.
“I don’t know how he got up there. He’s ancient,” Morin said. “All I know is I found him at the pound. What he did, I have no idea.”
Pablo ended up at the shelter thanks to the efforts, first, of Dave Smith, who lives in the Seasons at Tiara Rado neighborhood next to the monument. Smith said that around 9 a.m. Tuesday, several people in the neighborhood heard a dog barking incessantly from the monument. He said he and his wife worried that the dog was hurt or otherwise in trouble, or that possibly its owner was with him injured.
“I took off and climbed up the lower part of the cliff behind my house, trying to follow the sound,” he said.
Eventually, he said, he got a brief glance of a big, dark dog crossing a snowfield. Smith, who is 73, decided it wasn’t a good idea to continue pursuing the animal by himself in the snowy, icy conditions.
He headed back down toward his home and called the monument visitor center and also his brother-in-law, JT Toolen, who lives nearby. Toolen, monument Ranger Sean Nelb and Smith then headed together back up toward Pablo. They found him stuck in a narrow gorge, just southeast of a formation known as Terra Tower, where he paced back and forth and continued barking.
“Apparently he got down in there and didn’t want to get out again,” Smith said.
Smith said Nelb navigated snow-covered boulders to reach the dog, leash him and lead and half-lift him to a spot where they could descend to more gradual slopes.
Nelb’s name may sound familiar to Sentinel readers. As reported in a recent story, he recently was recognized at a ceremony at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia, after being named the 2019 Honor Graduate as the top-performing participant in a training class of more than 21,000 students.
Davis, who happened to ask Nelb on Tuesday if he was the person who’d won the award, praised his work in the dog rescue, from his quick arrival at the scene to his ensuing actions.
“He was very competent, getting to the dog. He had a pack on, survival gear. He just took right off over the boulders. He had to do some scrambling. I wouldn’t have wanted to do it but he’s young and strong.”
Smith said the dog had no collar or tags. He said its paws were a little bloodied, , but he was otherwise OK.
Mesa County Animal Services personnel on Friday told The Daily Sentinel the dog had been returned to its owner, which came as good news to Smith and Arlene Jackson, a spokesperson at the monument.
Said Smith, “All we could do was hope that the person who lost the dog would get in contact with animal control, and apparently he did.”
Jackson said it’s not unusual for park personnel to have to be tracking down dogs that are on the loose in the monument, typically when they’re happily running free and in no mood to be caught. She said it’s not so common to be dealing with a stuck dog in snowy and icy conditions.
Smith said the temperature got down to 20 degrees Tuesday night, so that would have put the dog in a precarious position in terms of surviving the night. But he said he also heard a lot of coyotes during the night.
“A pack of coyotes could have easily overcome this dog,” he said.
Morin said Pablo is happy to be back home, but he’s still mystified as to how the dog ended up getting to the monument and up the treacherous, snowy slopes where he was found, even if he’s in pretty good shape for his advanced age.
“I just can’t see him doing that,” Morin said.