Stray Dog Joins Hikers On 430-Mile Trek Across Ecuador
Earlier this month, a group of four Swedish adventurers set out to compete in one of the world's most grueling races through the jungles of South America. But even before they crossed the finish line, covered in dirt and sweat, they had already won the greatest trophy of all - a new friend.
While readying for a difficult stretch of the 430-mile Adventure Racing World Championship, one which would take them through the rainforests of Ecuador, the team from Peak Performance encountered a stray dog whom they named Arthur. Team member Mikael Lindnord says he was preparing food before the long trek when the friendly but sickly animal approached, so he offered a taste of a Swedish specialty.
"I thought he was hungry and gave him a meatball. Then I thought no more about it," Lindnord told Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet.
But Arthur didn't take the kind gesture so lightly. From that moment forward he became the newest member of the team, tagging alongside the group as they made their way through some of the roughest terrain on the planet.
The team says they tried to send the dog away at first, fearing that he was too frail to handle the difficult course, but he refused to leave their side. Over the next 20 miles, Arthur stayed close by, trudging through mud and thick foliage as the team made their way through the Amazon rainforest.
By the time they neared the final stretch, during which they would have to kayak upstream, the team's furry tagalong had caught the attention of race officials who, like them, had concerns about the dog's safety.
"The organization gave the advice not to bring dog Arthur out on the last leg - a dog in the kayak didn't seem like a great idea - and the team was going to follow this advice. [The team] put their kayaks down in the water and set off, but Arthur refused to be left and started swimming," the group writes.
Seeing the tough but tired dog trying to keep up, Lindnord offered him a place aboard the boat:
"It was quite difficult, technically, to paddle with a big dog in your lap. Sometimes he jumped in to hunt fish. When he became too cold, he had to borrow my jacket."
Despite the rigors of all the travel, which put the hardened athletes to the test, the team says Arthur made it "all the way across the finish line" with his new friends. But the ending of that leg of the race would prove to be just the start of something much longer-lasting.
The thought of leaving Arthur to return to his former life, unloved on the street, was too much for Lindnord to bear - so he set about the process of getting the hearty little dog back home with him to Sweden. For what might have been the first time in his life, Arthur was taken to a vet to get the health check he needed to be approved for the journey.
When word finally came from officials in Sweden that Arthur could enter the country, he began his longest journey yet, off to his new home.
"I almost cried in front of the computer, when receiving the decision," Lindnord wrote on the team's Facebook page.
Arthur and the team have since arrived, and he's said to be doing well in his new life as a beloved pet.
"Arthur is 7 years old. He has lived on the streets throughout his life, been kicked and beaten, without food and love," Lindnord told SVT News. "So he will get along just fine here."
There are an estimated 300,000 stray dogs living in the Ecuadorian capital, Quito. To learn about how you can help, visit Stray From the Heart, an NGO working on the ground to care for these animals and to find them new homes.