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    Lost dogs return to New York after tragedy in canyon; owner dies in fall

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    Sena Taylor Hauer
    Times-Independent Columnist
    Tonka, left, and Little P are recovering after surviving a fall in Rabbit Valley’s Mee Canyon that killed their owner. Photo courtesy of Mr. Bones and Co./Facebook

    As with all backcountry recreation, danger can lurk for visitors who take a wrong step or venture out without proper supplies.

    In mid-April, two visitors were hiking with a couple of dogs in a canyon near Rabbit Valley. They had set out on what was supposed to be a short hike. New York resident Kristofer Busching, 32, fell more than 80 feet to his death from a slickrock formation in Mee Canyon. The surviving individual, a 31-year-old man whose name is Mike, and the dogs spent several days lost in the canyons between Glade Park and Rabbit Valley.

    The two dogs, Little P and Tonka, are on the road to recovery and have gone back home, thanks to thousands of dollars raised by their community in New York, according to a story in the Grand Junction Sentinel.

    The dogs also fell from the rock, with one suffering a broken leg and another sustaining a broken jaw.

    A Facebook story about the incident said this: “Kris was exploring with his two dogs — who were his life — and a friend, Mark, when they got lost. After two days of trying to find their way without water or food they spotted a creek in a canyon below. During the descent, with Kris holding onto Tonka and Little P beside him, he lost his footing and stumbled trying to pull his dogs to safety. All three of them fell to the bottom of the canyon. Kris died upon impact. His dogs sustained injuries but survived. From the top of the canyon Mark, who could not get to them, lit signal fires for help. He was found the next day by search and rescue helicopters. When they finally got to Kris his dogs were still faithfully waiting next to him. They had not left his body.

    “Mark refused to leave Colorado without Tonka and Little P,” said the Facebook post. He picked them up from the local shelter where police had taken them and drove them back to Long Island to bring them to Kris’s devastated family. “His family is overwhelmed with funeral expenses and unable to afford the emergency surgery to save Tonka’s badly broken leg and x-rays for Little P’s jaw to understand the injury. They are just as heartbroken to not be able to care for his dogs.”

    People Magazine also had a story on the incident.

    Due to the story being reported on social media, a New York animal shelter called Mr. Bones & Co., got involved, raising money for surgery expenses. They were aided by the organization, Rescue the Runway.

    The campaign’s goal was $12,000. As of April 27, $24,117 had been raised for the two dogs and the animal shelter. Elli Frank, Mr. Bones’ founder and executive director, posted onto a GoFundMe page that both dogs were in recovery after successful surgeries.

    “Thank you to more than 600 compassionate people who donated to support our rescue and rehabilitation of these two boys and who continued to donate far beyond our goal for three surgeries and in-program care costs,” the message read. “Each of us realized how much we would want the same help for our dogs if we found ourselves in the same situation,” she said in the post.

    On April 23, Mr. Bones posted onto Facebook that Little P’s surgery to wire and splint his broken jaw was successful. “For Little P to have suffered such a severe break, whatever his head hit on the fall down the canyon hit with such force that he had little chance of surviving, and yet, he did,” the post read.

    Mesa County Animal Services rescued the dogs, with the help of the Grand Valley Veterinary Emergency Center and a CenturyLink helicopter.

    Busching, their late owner, has been described as “a much-loved man and talented tattoo artist who took his dogs on amazing adventures and gave them an incredible life.” The supporters were working to find an adoption family that would keep the dogs together “so they can heal from the trauma and stay together.”

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