Lost Service Dog Survived 2 Months Alone in the Colorado Mountains

by Britt
Photo credit: Vesna Kriznar / Shutterstock.com

It’s every dog parent’s nightmare. 14-month-old service dog in training Nova Riley slipped out of her harness and bolted out of a Safeway parking lot in a panic. After several sightings by the community as they searched tirelessly alongside owner Robynne Simons-Sealy, Nova continued to run in fear from anyone who attempted to catch her.

After two long months of worrying and searching, Simons-Sealy was reunited with her beloved Bernese Mountain Dog.

Nova was discovered injured in the woods of Meyers Ranch Park by two hikers on November 19th. The hikers recognized that she was injured, frightened, and needed help. They tried to carry her out to safely, but due to her high anxiety (understandable, given the situation), she bit one of her rescuers.

Refusing to leave the poor dog behind, they decided to bring in help. One hiker stayed with Nova to keep her calm and assure her they weren’t giving up on her. The other hiker descended the trail to ask the park rangers for help and guide them, along with Animal Control Officer Kylie Rupe, three miles back to her position.

“When we first got up there, I had brought treats and food up with me, knowing she would probably be very food-motivated at that point,” explained Rupe. “I used food to make friends, and she was very friendly but skittish.”

With the help of both the rangers and animal control, Nova was carried to safety on a tarp. One of the rangers had recognized Nova from a lost dog poster, allowing her to be reunited with her worried and ever-grateful owner.

“When I walked up to the car it was like I was just another human being, and then she realized and she went crazy,” Simons-Sealy shared. “It was so beautiful and so heartwarming and the most wonderful sound of her realizing, ‘I’m safe, I’m okay.’”

Two months in the wilderness had taken its toll on the young dog. She had lost approximately 20 pounds, which accounts for a quarter of her original body weight, and had suffered a badly broken leg. In an update on a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for Nova’s care, Simons-Sealy shared that the decision was made to have her front right leg amputated due to the injury.

“It shouldn’t stop her for long, as she has been trying to go up and down stairs with her cast and even jumped on our bed when I wasn’t looking,” Simons-Sealy wrote. “(Although it breaks my heart) She is still emaciated, and that will take time. But the good news is she is back to her happy smiling self, although often checking on where I am.”

Nova will no longer be able to work as a service dog, as initially intended. Still, she will live out the rest of her life as a happy and loved pet thanks to the efforts of the hikers, rangers, animal control, and the many community members who stepped up to find the missing dog.

The injured hiker only suffered a minor injury from the bite and did not require stitches.


Britt Kascjak is a proud pet mom, sharing her heart (and her home) with her “pack” which includes her husband John, their 2 dogs – Indiana and Lucifer – and their 2 cats – Pippen and Jinx. She has been active in the animal rescue community for over 15 years, volunteering, fostering and advocating for organizations across Canada and the US. In her free time, she enjoys traveling around the country camping, hiking, and canoeing with her pets.

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