Missing Cockapoo Miraculously Found After Spending a Month Lost in a Colorado Forest
A missing dog named Bella has been reunited with her relieved parents after spending nearly a month missing in the wilderness.
The adorable 10-month-old cockapoo disappeared June 18 while out for a hike with her owners, Jim and Betsy Chaffin of Colorado. She remained missing for a scary and stressful four weeks alone in Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, a nature preserve located in the Elk mountains of central Colorado.
The Chaffins were out with Bella, some extended family, and two other dogs hiking the Capitol Creek Ditch Trail when Bella ran ahead to walk with their grandson. Because the grandson knew the group was behind him, he thought nothing of it when Bella turned back around—but somewhere in the shuffle, the pup got lost. When the group eventually reunited, they realized Bella wasn't with any of them.
The small crew hiking with the Chaffins immediately divided into two search teams and set off looking for the dog. When nobody was able to locate Bella, the group reluctantly headed home—only to return again the next day to search and put up "missing dog" posters in the area.
But a day turned into a week, and the more time passed, the less optimistic Jim and Betsy felt about the chances of reuniting with their beloved pet.
"You just feel so guilty," Betsy told The Aspen Times. "We just figured a coyote got Bella."
Finally, on the tenth day, there was a spark of hope. A local couple was out hiking when they spotted a small white dog getting a drink. They tried to get close, but the dog ran when they approached. The news of the sighting got back to the Chaffins, and their spirits lifted knowing Bella might still be alive.
In the weeks that followed, the Chaffins exhausted all the resources they could find: radio stations, missing dog posters, calls to local groomers, veterinarians, and animal shelters. They also sought help from a local animal safety and control officer, the director of the Aspen Animal Shelter, a dog skilled at sniffing out missing pets and people, and even a dog psychic.
Jim and Betsy also set up a tent in the forest filled with Bella's toys and some of their clothing to help lure her in. But despite their enormous efforts, Bella remained missing. Loved ones suggested that the Chaffins accept that Bella was likely gone and start the grieving process, but Jim and Betsy were undeterred.
Eventually, those efforts paid off. A man named Rosario Ochoa had seen one of the missing dog signs posted by the Chaffins, and later spotted a small white dog along the side of the road that he suspected to be Bella. The skittish dog growled and ran into the woods when Ochoa approached, but he was eventually able to coax her out with some sweet talking. Once he secured Bella, Ochoa called the number on her tags to let the Chaffins know their precious pooch had finally been found.
Though their reunion was sweet, it was also tough to see Bella in the condition she was in. The small dog had lost half of her weight—going from 8 pounds to 4 pounds—and had matted fur that needed to be shaved off. She was also punctured by two porcupine quills, which were removed by a veterinarian.
With some help from her patient and protective parents, Bella is being nursed back to health in the comfort of her own home and the Chaffins say she's back to her happy self. We're so inspired by this little dog's determination, and we wish the Chaffins lots of fun and happy times ahead with their family back together.