UPDATE | Sunday, 4 p.m. — Good news came late last week and into the weekend in the search for Ullr. On Thursday, for the first time, Dalbey said there was a confirmed sighting of Ullr.
Using funds raised from the GoFundMe, Dalbey was able to hire the professional K-9 tracker, which picked up Ullr's scent over the weekend in the same area as the sighting.
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CARBONDALE, Colo. — The friend of an avalanche survivor has created a GoFundMe to help pay for a K-9 tracker to help him find his dog Ullr, who appears to have escaped the slide and is wandering around the Marble area.
Jacob Dalbey, of Carbondale, and two friends left town on the morning of March 17 with a goal of scouting a place in the Rapid Creek drainage, southwest of Marble, for future adventures. All three of them had avalanche safety equipment and advanced or professional avalanche training.
Per usual, Dalbey brought his dog Ullr, a 7-year-old border collie mix that is also part-wolf. Ullr has joined him for countless adventures and is at home in the snowy mountains.
But that morning, as the group neared the top of a ridge, the ground gave way.
CO avalanche survivor determined to find dog missing since March 17 slide
The avalanche broke four to six feet deep, 400 feet wide and ran 2,500 vertical feet over three cliffs. It ended up burying one man, killing him. Dalbey described the man as a good friend and a "very remarkable, loving and caring person" to have "beautiful times out in the mountains" alongside.
Dalbey himself was almost completely buried in the slide. His right hand — the only appendage free of the snow — was broken, and he slowly clawed himself out of the snow and ice with two fingers over the course of three hours to free his other arm. As he worked to escape, he spotted his other friend, who seemed disoriented. He'd later learn that he had suffered a head injury and ended up at a friend's home at 3 a.m. after walking out.
Once Dalbey freed himself on the slope, he triggered the SOS on his InReach device at 5:55 p.m. and started to search for his buried friend and Ullr. But he didn't see anybody. The sun was setting back up on the slope, the temperature was dropping and Dalbey was in pain, exhausted and hypothermic. He made the decision to leave and seek help.
At the hospital, Dalbey's roommate, who works in search and rescue, said there was a glimmer of hope: dog tracks were seen exiting the slide path above where Dalbey had dug himself out. The tracks traveled down to the trio's skin tracks and followed them along the drainage to Highway 3 in Marble.
"I know, with everything in me, that if he made it that far, he made it all the way out," Dalbey told Denver7.
Since then and in between doctor's appointments, Dalbey has been searching every day for Ullr. He said Ullr had a collar on and is microchipped. The dog knows the area well, he added.
"We travel there — he's probably been there hundreds of times, on that road," Dalbey said. "And maybe he was trying to make his way back."
Since the avalanche, he has spotted canine tracks that appear to be dragging something, possibly the pack Ullr always carried in the backcountry.
On Sunday, Dalbey said a GoFundMe was set up to help him cover the fee for a professional K9 tracker. On Tuesday morning, it had raised more than $11,200. By Thursday, it had jumped up to almost $15.5K.
In an update, the organizer — a friend of Dalbey's — said they are expecting the dog tracker soon and they hope Ullr will be back within a few days.
Dalbey injuries prevent him from being outside in the wintry weather too much, so his searching capabilities are limited, the GoFundMe reads. He's also unable to work as he recovers and has a lot of unplanned medical bills. Paying for a K-9 tracker is something he is unable to cover.
"The bond I have with this dog is unexplainable. I can feel him right now. I can feel his soul but he's worn down and tired," Dalbey wrote in a social media post. "I love you buddy. Just hang on. We are close."
Anybody who sees Ullr, took him in, or knows of his whereabouts should contact the Gunnison County Sheriff's Office (970-641-1113), Pitkin County Sheriff's Office (970-920-5300) or Garfield County Sheriff's Office (970-945-0453).
If you want to help or have a tip, you can also reach out to the reporter for this story at Stephanie.Butzer@Denver7.com and she can connect you with Dalbey.