It’s a miracle Apollo survived, and it’s even more amazing that he was barely hurt.
brown dog is snow after being rescued from avalanche
Credit: nikolazborovska / Adobe Stock

Thankfully, there's a happy ending to this story of Apollo, the dog rescued from an avalanche in Colorado last month. But that comes at the tail end of a very busy half hour in the life of the 2-year-old Chesapeake Bay retriever who was accompanying his skiing human, Scott Shepherd.

The pair were in a backcountry skiing group in the Berthoud Pass area of Colorado on Dec. 26 when an avalanche erupted right under Apollo's feet.

"[Apollo] started moving, and he just looked confused like, 'Why am I sliding down the hill?' And then he was just gone," Shepherd told ABC News.

Once the snow had settled, Shepherd was safe, but Apollo was nowhere to be seen after the avalanche swept him over a cliff. As Shepherd skied down the path of the avalanche, he ran into Bobby White and Josh Trujillo, a pair of college students who had been skiing roughly 1,000 feet away from the avalanche and had come over to help look for anyone trapped under the snow. After scanning the area with their avalanche beacons to make sure there were no humans in peril, they turned their attention to looking for Apollo; an act White likened to "a needle in a haystack," in tense video captured on his GoPro.

The video from White's helmet cam captures the trio poking probe poles into the snow, looking to make contact with the buried dog, ABC reported. According to the Utah Avalanche Center, 93 percent of human avalanche victims are recovered alive if they are dug out within 15 minutes, but the odds drop severely as the time increases.

So as 15 minutes dragged into 20, hopes of finding Apollo were beginning to dwindle, White began packing up his poles and calling off the search. Assuming the dog was dead, he wanted to get out of the avalanche-prone area. That's when Trujillo called out. As he was gathering his gear, he spotted Apollo's nose, poking through the snow.

The skiers—joined by another person—dug frantically for a couple minutes, freeing the chilly pup from the piles of snow and before long, Apollo bounded up and was running around, shaken, but seemingly unharmed, save for a slight limp.

After getting home, Apollo has rested up and seems to have emerged no worse for the wear after his extremely close call. For his part, Shepherd acknowledges that he should have been more careful about staying on path and keeping away from posted avalanche areas. He's grateful to White and Trujillo for their help and called the affair a learning experience.

"I feel like I … got away with something that has such a huge lesson without huge consequences," Shepherd told ABC News. "Like, he could have been lost forever. I thought the best case was that he was seriously injured, but nothing happened at all. It just still blows my mind."