(STRAY DOGS/ANIMAL NEWS) It only took one meatball for a stray dog in Ecuador to prove his title as man’s best friend and rank among the world’s best adventure athletes. A dog named Arthur became the fifth member of the Swedish Peak Performance team, trekking alongside his human teammates through mud and water during a 430-mile race through the Amazonian rain forest.

Since their return, one of the men actually managed to bring his new friend back home to his family in Sweden. The team has also since established the Arthur Foundation in support of stray dogs. Read on to learn more about the devoted dog’s participation in the Adventure Racing World Championship. — Global Animal

Arthur the dog and his teammates crossed the finish line as the 12th top team in the world. Photo Credit: Krister Goransson
Arthur the dog and his teammates crossed the finish line as the 12th top team in the world. Photo Credit: Krister Goransson

NPR, Bill Chappell

After a stray dog in Ecuador met a team of Swedish adventure athletes, he grew so attached to the squad that he ran for miles and swam along to keep up with them. Now Arthur the dog is world-famous — and it all started with a meatball.

Sweden’s Peak Performance team was in Ecuador this month to compete in the Adventure Racing World Championship, in which athletes hike, kayak, and bike during a 430-mile endurance race through the Amazonian rain forest. It’s the kind of race where athletes try to keep moving day and night.

Swedish endurance athlete Mikael Lindnord gives Arthur an affectionate scratch of approval. Photo Credit: Krister Goransson
Swedish endurance athlete Mikael Lindnord gives Arthur an affectionate scratch of approval. Photo Credit: Krister Goransson

Just before starting one stage, the team’s Mikael Lindnord made friends with a dog, sharing a meatball with him. Lindnord thought that would be the end of it — but then the dog followed him, and essentially forced his way onto the team.

The rest of the story is told through photos of the Peak Performance group’s trek, as updates on their Facebook page show the four athletes making their way through mud and rough terrain, now joined by the dog they named Arthur. And when they had to use kayaks, Arthur swam alongside, refusing to be left behind.

Arthur refused to be left behind and jumped into unknown waters to swim alongside his team's kayak. Photo Credit: Krister Goransson
Arthur refused to be left behind and jumped into unknown waters to swim alongside his team’s kayak. Photo Credit: Krister Goransson

Here’s how the team summed up that day:

“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.

“Mike, Simon, Staffan and Karen put their kayaks down in the water and set off, but Arthur refused to be left and started swimming. This was too heartbreaking for the team, and Mikael helped Arthur up in the kayak. This led to standing ovations from everyone on the shore, seeing the five (!) team mates set off.”

Photos of the devoted dog swimming to stay with his new friends led one fan to call the moment “magical.”

Arthur treks through the Amazonian rain forest during the Adventure Racing World Championship. Photo Credit: Krister Goransson
Arthur treks through the Amazonian rain forest during the Adventure Racing World Championship. Photo Credit: Krister Goransson

The team says that after six days, they “crossed the finish line with 5 members instead of 4 as the 12th top team in the world.”

After some uncertainty, Lindnord managed to work out a way to bring his new best friend back to live with his family in Sweden: He and his teammates opened a Paypal account and mounted a Twitter campaign to raise money to bring Arthur home. They’ve also had him treated for a nasty wound to his back that he had suffered months before they met in him the rainforest.

A recent Facebook post thanking people for their help and good wishes — and telling them that Arthur was safe and sound in Sweden — led one fan to write, “Thank you for sharing this story with the world. We need to witness more happy endings and acts of compassion.”

Arthur greets his admirers in his new home of Sweden. Photo Credit: Krister Goransson
Arthur greets his admirers in his new home of Sweden. Photo Credit: Krister Goransson

When we contacted the Swedish team to ask how Arthur’s doing today, here’s what they said:

“Arthur is in the dog quarantine in Stockholm, where he has to be for 120 days before he can go home to Örnsköldsvik, where he will live with the Lindnord family. A team member visited him today and there will be more visits during these months — but Arthur also has to be given time to relax and adapt to his new settings!”

The team also says it has established the Arthur Foundation, to support stray dogs.

More NPR: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/11/25/366660090/dog-follows-athletes-through-mud-and-water-and-melts-hearts

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