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Anthony Ortolani wants dog he left on a mountain to go to one of her rescuers

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Last month, Anthony Ortolani insisted he wanted to retain custody of Missy, a dog he left on a mountain to die -- a prospect that spurred Facebook outcry and a petition to stop that from happening.

Now, however, he's done an about-face, saying at a news conference that he wants Missy to stay with one of her rescuers.

As we've reported, Ortolani posted his version of what took place on 14ers.com. According to him, he was hiking with Missy on Mount Bierstadt in late July when her paws became too sore to continue walking. He tried to carry the German Shepherd the rest of the way down the mountain, he maintained, but because they were at approximately the 13,000 foot mark and a storm was approaching, he eventually had no choice but to leave her behind.

He subsequently contacted a search-and-rescue group and the local sheriff's department, he claimed, but was told such an effort on behalf of a dog wasn't feasible. As a result, Missy had been on the mountain for more than a week when she was finally spotted by hikers. After the latter posted a photo of Missy, members of a rescue group banded together and were able to find and save the dog, who was suffering from dehydration and cuts on all four of her paws.

Despite Ortolani's version of events, the Clear Creek Sheriff's Office announced that he would face animal cruelty charges. And his desire to get Missy back resulted in a fiery online backlash.

Continue reading for more about Anthony Ortolani and Missy. Take the this conversation on the Life With Dogs Facebook page, which has gathered nearly 400 comments at this writing. Examples:

That useless piece of humanity had the gall to ask for her back after he abandoned her and she was rescued over a week later??? I think I'd abandon him with no shoes, no food, no water (leave him some snow? yellow maybe?)

Thank God the rescue team. I know Missy will now get the love and loyalty she deserves.

Exactly what should happen to this person -- he simply thought the poor dog would die/no one would find the dog and he would be home free. I hope they throw the book at him.

As posts like these accumulated, a Change.org petition was launched under the title "Clear Creek County Sheriff's Office: Please do not allow Anthony Ortolani to reclaim Missy, German Shepherd." Here's the intro, which features a link to a story about Missy featured on Good Morning America.

Please read the attached article. Missy was left by her owner due to a storm in very tough terrain without food, water or shelter. She was injured and could not walk to safety. He made no attempt to organize any rescue group and made no attempt to go back for her to save her. A couple hiking in the area found her and worked very hard to save her. They did everything they could to save Missy, a dog they did not know. She was very close to death when they found her. She is recovering now but Mr. Ortolani wants his dog back. The couple who saved her, along with others, have expressed interest in adopting her. I am not suggesting that Mr. Ortolani is a bad person but simply that he did not step up to the plate when his dog needed him. Please sign this petition so Missy can go to her new home with the couple who loved her enough to save her.

As of now, the petition, which sported 128 signatures at the time of our original post, has 1,290 names on it.

In the face of such sweeping opposition, Ortolani backed down. At a Sunday press conference arranged by representatives of Wheat Ridge's Animal Law Center -- the firm featured in this space last week in regard to Dre, a Brighton pit bull recently returned to his family after an international uproar (and reports of past biting) -- he again tried to cast his actions in a better light. "My physical condition was significantly deteriorated," he told CBS4. "My emotional condition was no good. I thought she was dead."

Now that Missy is on the road to recovery, however, he's been negotiating a plea deal with Clear Creek County that could be wrapped up as early as this week. Meanwhile, he told the station, "I would much rather see her with one of the rescuers who were very affectionate to her obviously then sitting in a kennel somewhere in Clear Creek County."

Here's the CBS4 report about Ortolani's comments.

More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Corey Haveman skips sentencing after guilty plea for starving Irish Setter to death."

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