Almost a week after an avalanche ripped down a Chaffee County peak and killed a man, a group strapped on skis and conducted a passionate day- long search for the body of the victim's dog.
With their spirits languishing after seven hours of unsuccessfully looking for Tiga on Thursday, the group quietly returned to the trailhead.
But it was as if the Bernese mountain dog had been playfully teasing them all along. Syd Schieren spotted Tiga sitting by his truck.
"We couldn't really believe it was her until we read her tags a couple of times," said Schieren, who had survived the April 9 avalanche that killed his friend Jigmet Dawa, Tiga's owner.
The 9-year-old dog was slightly skittish and limping a little, and her white crest was a tad matted with tree sap.
Not bad, though, for a dog who had been stranded for six days near Huron Peak and had survived an avalanche that ripped for almost 2,000 feet.
Tiga even had enough gusto left to lead Schieren in a 10-minute chase through the willows, woods and a creek, territory that she had become familiar with.
"She's a tough girl," Schieren said.
Tiga, part of a working breed of dogs originating in Switzerland, also had shed a little extra weight that she was storing, dropping from a hefty 96 pounds to a more toned 88.
"She had enough reserves to live off of," Schieren said. "She's got her girlish figure back now."
Schieren, from Nathrop, and Liam Gray, from Alameda, Calif., were on skis and were able to escape to the side of the avalanche's path. They described hearing a sound like a shotgun blast as the avalanche broke at 12,600 feet and crashed down the peak, killing Dawa, who was snowshoeing.
The three men were on the outing with Tiga and a few other dogs near Huron Peak, a fourteener near Winfield, about 25 miles north of Buena Vista.
Rescuers recovered Dawa's body, which was pinned to a tree and buried by about 2 to 3 feet of snow.
The victim was living temporarily in California as his wife, Jenny Dawa, was finishing medical school. His body was being taken back to India on Saturday for a funeral and burial. Dawa's death was the third avalanche death of the season in Colorado, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center in Boulder.
Knox Williams, director of the avalanche center, said survival stories such as Tiga's aren't all that rare.
"There are a few amazing, great stories about dogs who have survived avalanches," Williams said.