-- When an extreme sports team from Sweden undertook a grueling adventure race through Ecuador, the teammates never expected to end up with a fifth member whose story would touch people’s hearts around the world.
Team Peak Performance, an adventure racing team, embarked upon the Adventure Racing World Championship, traversing the Andes, trekking through jungle and paddling on river. At times knee-deep in mud, the team members didn’t have the aid of GPS and were guided only by maps on the 430-mile journey.
With two stages of the race left, they came across a stray dog who wouldn’t leave their side. Noticing that the animal appeared hungry, a member of the team fed the dog meatballs from his own personal store, team captain Mikael Lindnord told ABC in a telephone interview from Sweden Monday.
“It was more like, ‘OK, he’s going with us. What should we do?’ We’re like, ‘We need to feed him otherwise he will die,” Lindnord said.
The dog, who they named Arthur, followed them through the rough terrain. When they put their kayaks in the river for the final leg of the race, organizers advised them against taking the dog, so, for his safety and theirs, they tried to leave him behind. Arthur threw himself into the river and started to swim alongside their departing kayaks, Lindnord added.
Deeply moved by the dog’s devotion, Lindnord turned his kayak and pulled Arthur up onto his lap.
“It was like, you know, ‘OK, you’re going with us,’ and that’s how it went,” Lindnord said.
When the team crossed the finish line after racing for six days, Arthur was with them. Team Peak Performance ranked 12th overall in the competition that ended earlier this month, but theirs is the story that continues to resonate.
Lindnord, who doesn’t have pets at home, said he couldn’t leave Arthur behind. The dog had to be examined by a veterinarian, and Lindnord embarked upon rounds of phone calls, pleas and paperwork in order to get permission to take Arthur home with the team.
At times, the process was overwhelming.
“And I felt like, OK, if Arthur is putting so much energy to us, he deserves that I put this amount of energy on him,” he said.
A post on the team’s Facebook page said Lindnord “almost cried” when he learned Sweden would accept Arthur, and when Ecuadorian officials gave the application their support, he was able to get the final paperwork and take the dog home, where he arrived last week to a media blitz.
The dog has been quarantined and will have to remain there for 120 days, after which he’ll be free to go home with Lindnord and his wife and their 1-year-old daughter. Team members plan to visit Arthur in quarantine.
Lindnord said his wife was initially worried about his bringing “a strange dog from the street from Ecuador to Sweden.”
He said he told her: “I need to do this, and she said, ‘OK, if it’s that important we support you.’”
After having met Arthur at the airport in Sweden, Lindnord said his wife now loves the idea as much as he does.
“I never have a dog before this. It was not my intention to get a dog in Ecuador,” he said. “I was going to Ecuador to race. Some things you can’t decide; it’s like, it just happens.”
The team has since started the Arthur Foundation to help other stray dogs.