A ten-month-old Cockapoo, Bella, strayed ahead of her owners while on a hike and eventually ended up off-trail, leading her to survive four weeks in the rugged Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness near Aspen, Colorado. Only after completing their hike near Capitol Creek did the owners, Jim and Betsy Chaffin, realize that their dog was missing. They then launched a two-group search party with their hiking group that came up empty-handed.
The next day, the owners searched again while inquiring to other hikers and putting up lost dog posters. The first sighting of Bella occurred 10 days after she was lost when two hikers saw a small white dog drinking water from a stream before running away. Dedicated to finding their dog, the couple contacted the Aspen Animal Shelter and a retired Animal Control Deputy to get advice and additional resources for their search. They even placed a lure tent filled with Bella’s favorite toys near the trailhead in an attempt to lead her home.
After more than three weeks passed, some suggested the owners should accept that Bella would likely never be found. Still, the couple made daily phone calls to rescue groups and put up more posters in the hope of her safe return. This decision turned out to be crucial as only a few days later, a local man, Rosario Ochoa, found the little white dog walking near the trailhead where she was lost. Despite growling and running to hide, Ochoa was able to coax the dog out and promptly called the Chaffins through the number on her dog tag.
Four weeks after her disappearance, Bella was reunited with her owners, the impacts of her journey visible on her body. The dog’s fur was matted and impaled with two porcupine quills while her weight had halved from eight to four pounds. After seeing a veterinarian for a check-up and medical shave, Bella was returned to the Chaffins, who worked on nursing her back to health. Whatever adventures Bella had, we can only imagine.