As rumors spread about a hound howling high up in the Colorado mountains, Sean Nichols and Trinity Smith pulled on their hiking boots and went investigating. For hours they saw nothing, and then they heard a harrowing cry.
Larry Osborne and Anouk Patel live in Alma, Colorado. There, they run the South Park Saloon – the highest saloon in North America. As such, they are at the heart of their community and well known in the area.
Given that their home and business is nestled in the Rocky Mountains, the couple relish any opportunity to get out in the open. Some of their favorite pastimes are hiking, skiing, fishing and camping, which they enjoy with their son Shail and dog Chloe.
In 2017 Osborne and Patel were enjoying a late summer hike with their Labrador-pit bull mix. As they made their way into the mountains, however, the beloved 14-year-old Chloe ran away.
Distraught owners Osborne and Patel looked everywhere for their precious pet, but she was nowhere to be seen. The couple refused to give up, however. So, they put the word out among Alma’s 300 residents that Chloe was missing.
To spread the news further, the couple also posted an appeal on Facebook. “Chloe has been missing since yesterday,” they wrote. “It’s not like her not to come home at night. She’s old, choco lab mix.”
Thanks to her owners’ efforts, then, there were plenty of people keeping an eye out for Chloe on the mountain. As the weeks passed, though, Osborne and Patel’s hopes began to fade. And after a month without their dog, they resigned themselves to the fact that they may never see her again.
With no sign of Chloe anywhere, the couple eventually decided that they would have to move on. “I’d told our son the dog had died,” Osborne revealed to The Denver Post in September 2017. As a result, the family held a memorial to say their goodbyes to the animal.
Osborne and Patel couldn’t see how Chloe could last on the 14,000-foot high mountain for more than a month. She had no food and presumably limited access to water. “I mean, how the hell could anyone survive that?” Osborne said.
Just when the family had lost all hope, though, it turned out that a local couple had unwittingly launched their own search for Chloe. Trinity Smith and Sean Nichols had read reports of a dog barking up on the mountains through Colorado mountaineering website 14ers.com. As a result, they decided to go and investigate.
Smith and Nichols were both relative beginners when it came to mountain climbing. Nonetheless, Smith initially decided to go out alone in search of the creature. But after a day of climbing, she still hadn’t come across any signs of the dog.
Then, just as dusk was beginning to fall, she heard a dog crying in the distance. Unfortunately, she couldn’t locate the animal and had to leave the mountain when night came. Undeterred, though, Smith vowed to return to the peaks with Nichols the following day.
As the couple made their way up the cloudy mountain, they noticed something in the distance. “Once I got there, I could see a little head pop up and hear her barking,” Nichols told Inside Edition in September 2017.
Nichols followed the sound of the barking, which eventually led him to a steep ledge. And sure enough, there was Chloe. She was weak and emaciated, but crucially she was still alive and patiently awaiting her rescue.
Recalling the moment when he reached out to Chloe, Nichols said, “She came down into my chest and there was such an incline that we just slid [down the mountain].” Thankfully, though, he was able to bring the dog down safely.
Shortly afterwards, Chloe was finally reunited with her owners after six long weeks on the mountain. “We love our dog and we almost gave up, but she is back with us, and that is the best thing in the world,” Patel said later.
Following her six-week ordeal in the Rockies, Chloe had lost a significant amount of weight. Her frail figure now weighed a tiny 26 pounds. But, thankfully, the dog’s vets expected her to make a full recovery.
Recalling the instant when Chloe returned, Osborne added, “It was a pretty emotional moment.” He told The Denver Post, “Even when she’s sitting next to me on the couch now, it’s still crazy to look at her, like, ‘How did you manage to do that?’”
And following their reunion with Chloe, Osborne and Patel thought that it was only right to celebrate. “We went to the saloon and drank all night,” Smith told Summit Daily. “Pretty much the whole town came and thanked us.”
Their good deed cemented Smith and Nichols’ place in the community, having recently moved to the area from Florida. “Everyone was just in shock,” Smith said. “They were giving me hugs and crying on my shoulder. It was pretty awesome, and now I have a whole bunch of Alma friends.”