When a team of Swedish athletes trekking through the Ecuadorian rainforest last year sat down for a meal of canned meat, they were joined by the most unusual dinner guest – a scruffy old stray dog. They felt sorry for the poor creature and gave him some of their food, but little did they expect that the small gesture of kindness would earn them a friend for life. From that moment on the dog never left their side, following them through the rough terrain for the entire duration of the trek!
The group of four trekkers happened to be navigating the final two stages of the 430-mile Adventure Racing World Championship, during the time that the dog – whom they later named Arthur – befriended them. “I had just opened a food pack when I saw a scruffy miserable dog in the corner of my eye,” said team member Mikaels Lindord. “I thought he was hungry and gave him a meatball. Then I thought no more of it.”
But the act certainly made an impression on Arthur, who refused to leave his new master’s side. Despite his ill health, he kept up with the team through every gruelling task. He swam alongside them while they kayaked down rivers, dragged himself up treacherous hills as they hiked, and even managed to pull himself through knee-deep mud during treks.
Concerned for Arthur’s safety, the team tried their best to shake him off along the way, but he simply refused to give up. There was a point where he even got stuck in the mud, and the athletes had to take a break to set him free.
“At one stage we had to take a break and the dog was totally wrecked,” Lindord recalled. “We opened two cans of food and let him eat, because he could find no food at all in the jungle.”
One segment of the race involved a 36-mile kayak around the coast. The organisers warned the team that taking Arthur along could pose a risk to the dog’s as well as their own safety. So the team tried to start without him. But just as they left, Arthur jumped into the water and started paddling desperately beside the kayak. Seeing the dog struggling to keep up broke the Swedish athletes’ hearts, so they pulled him out of the water and put him in the kayak, letting him stay with them for the rest of the journey.
Photographs of the devoted dog swimming beside the kayak have been described as ‘magical’. With his dauntless spirit, Arthur managed to cement his place as the fifth member of the team. Six days later, the team crossed the finish line within the top 12 in the world, with five members instead of four.
Arthur’s condition was pretty bad at the end of the race, so the team rushed him to a local vet, to have him treated for a severe wound that had been on his back since they first met. As the faithful old dog was getting treated, Lindord realised that he would never be able to part with Arthur. He decided to adopt the canine and take him back home to Sweden.
The team opened a Paypal account and started a Twitter campaign to raise money to bring the faithful dog back home. Lindord also applied to the Swedish Board of Agriculture, requesting permission to bring Arthur into the country. It was a tense few days, but the paperwork came through and Arthur was able to board the plane back home along with the team.
“I almost cried in front of the computer, when receiving the decision from Jordbruksverket (Board of Agriculture) in Sweden!” he said. “I came to Ecuador to win the World Championship. Instead, I got a new friend,” he proclaimed joyfully.
According to news reports, Arthur was taken to a dog quarantine immediately after landing in Sweden. He had to spend 120 days there before he could join his new master’s, the Lindorn family, in Örnsköldsvik. The other members of the team – Simon, Staffan, and Karen, often come over to visit their old companion.