DENVER (TheBlaze/AP) -- A man who left his more than 100-pound dog on a Colorado mountain after it became injured and weather conditions caused him to fear for his own safety and that of a teenage climbing companion said he has received death threats for his actions.
The German shepherd mix named Missy was found more than a week after owner Anthony Ortolani left her on Mount Bierstadt in early August. She was brought down by a group of hikers and is now doing well.
Ortolani, who has been charged with animal cruelty by investigators over the incident, paid for Missy's vet bills and reluctantly agreed to turn over the dog to one of the rescuers, bending to criticism he has received for leaving the dog to die.
Another hiker spotted the injured dog after eight days, and volunteers coordinated a rescue effort through a climbing website. Rescuers found the dog bloodied and close to death on a ridge.
Ortolani told KMGH-TV he was forced to leave the dog on the mountain after the animal got injured. He said he and a 19-year-old friend tried to carry the 112-pound animal for more than two hours over rocky terrain, but he worried for his safety and that of the teen and had to abandon her.
"I don't want to give her up. I love her, but those people risked life and limb to get her out of there, and that has got to be worth something," said Ortalani, adding that he has already paid close to $5,000 in vet and boarding bills.
Ortolani was climbing with the 19-year-old son of a friend when bad weather moved in. He said the canine's feet were blistered and she was unable to walk. He said he and his climbing companion were also struggling in the bad weather and decided it was time to come down for their own safety.
"Carrying her down, unfortunately caused her more injury," Ortolani said. "She fought with me and squirmed off my shoulders, and I dropped her on some rocks and she got hurt worse. Everybody says `Why didn't you go back?' My physical condition was significantly deteriorated, my emotional condition was no good. I thought she was dead."
Watch this report from KUSA with footage of Ortolani's side of the story:
Ortolani called a friend who contacted the Clear Creek County Sheriff's Office but was told the region was too dangerous and crews don't rescue animals.
Ortolani acknowledged that he didn't put up a sign on the trailhead bulletin board asking to be contacted if anyone saw his dog. He said he takes full responsibility for taking the dog with him on a hike that proved to be too difficult for her.
"I've always wanted nothing but the best for her, and that's why I take her everywhere with me," he said.
After Ortolani learned of the rescue, he asked for his dog back. But Clear Creek County authorities conducted an investigation and charged him with animal cruelty.
The rescuers appeared on the daytime talk show Ellen Monday (via the Daily Mail):
The rescuers, not knowing each other before retrieving the dog, were organized online through the site 14ers.com. Discussion on the site, which KMGH reports went on for more than 49 pages, included Ortolani owning up to what he did and saying he feels "stress and sadness from the whole situation." Here is some of what was written on the site against Ortolani's actions:
"All I can say is, you left Missy on that mountain, and now she deserves to live with someone who cared enough to rescue her. (Seven) days she laid there bleeding, hurt, alone, tired, hungry and thirsty. Her old life ended when the people she counted on the most left her, and her new life begins with one of the rescuers, or anyone who won't abandon her, for that matter," one poster wrote.
Another wrote, "I feel that the owner should spend 8 days and nights on the Sawtooth himself without water, food, shelter. Then I would advocate that he has earned a slight chance to get her back. Sorry but the owner left her for dead. I would not have, even in pain I would have found friends, searched for help, posted signs, something."
Watch this ABC News report from earlier in the month covering the rescue and custody battle:
Eventually administrators for the site decided to lock the board for a time due to comments becoming hostile.
The decision to give up custody of Missy to one of her rescuers was part of a possible plea bargain.
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