This is adventure racing, widely hailed as the most dangerous sport in existence. Participants travel hundreds of miles across many different climates to a finish line far away. They bike, swim, row, run, and walk towards their destination. Most races take weeks at a time. When the Swiss National Team entered the 2014 World Championship race, they had no clue they’d attract another member of the team on the way. This “member” was a dog. His name is Arthur. This is his story.
Arthur and Mikael Lindnord met on day four of the 435-mile race. The dog wandered into a team transition area with flies circling him and a nasty cut on his back. Nobody wanted to be near him, not even Mikael. “At the same time I thought to myself, nobody could be nice to this fellow,” he said. “So I took some of my meatballs and put it on the ground in front of him.” Mikael didn’t know he just made what would be a lifelong friend.
The 435 Mile Race
The World Championship is brutal. It takes place in Ecuador, and challenges teams to travel up to 15,000 feet in height across 13 different climate zones. Only a small portion of specially trained athletes can make it out alive, but somehow, someway, Arthur decided to follow them and captivate the world in the process.
The Fifth Member Of The Squad
After departing the transition area, the team realized someone was following them. It was Arthur. The dog kept his distance, but noticeably stopped whenever the team stopped, and kept following them into the wilderness. The course would end up testing this little dog’s health, though, even to the point of death.
Arthur Keeps Up With The Team
Miraculously Arthur stuck with the team through the toughest parts of the race. “He went through the hardest parts of the race with us,” Karen Lundgren said. “Just because of him I could focus on something else–I could focus on this dog fighting just as hard as I did,” member Steffan Bjorkland said. The problem was the race did take its toll, and would soon threaten his life.
Arthur Has Problems
On the dawn of day five the team was running out of food and water. They were weak and tired, and Arthur began showing signs of decline. “We had a tough night, and Arthur was laying down next to us,” Steffan said. “He could barely stand up and he was breathing really hard. To me it was really painful to see a dog suffer so much.” The team had a difficult decision to make.
Arthur Truly Becomes Part Of The Team
The team saw Arthur breathing heavily, and decided to give up what little food they had to the dog. “It didn’t matter we were probably going to run out of food,” Karen said. “We didn’t have a choice, we had to take care of him.” Mikael later said there was some sort of “aura” around this dog, and the team just couldn’t leave him. They named him Arthur, after King Arthur, because of his courage. Soon, however, Arthur would come to the end of the road.
The Last Leg Of The Race
The last leg of the race was a kayak ride through Mangrove swamps, and Race officials said Arthur couldn’t follow the team any longer from that point. But soon after taking off, the team heard a “PLOP” in the water. Arthur jumped in and decided to follow them. He swam next to their boats in pursuit. This act of loyalty urged Mikael to break the rules of the race.
Mikael Breaks The Rules
Suddenly Mikael reached in the water, grabbed Arthur, and stuck him on top of the boat. He clearly broke the rules of the race, but nobody on the Swiss National Team cared. Some things are bigger than athletics. On the sport’s biggest stage, one the team trained so hard to get to, they disqualified themselves for a dog.
The Finish Line
On day six the team crossed the finish line, finishing twelfth. It wasn’t the place they had in mind, but they didn’t care–they gained a new friend along the way. The problem was Arthur was severely malnourished, fatigued, and had so many diseases that his very life was in danger yet again. They had to operate, and fast.
Arthur Gets Surgery
If Arthur stayed in Ecuador, he would’ve been killed. That’s the culture there. So Mikael took Arthur home to Sweden, another 6,000 miles away, and immediately took him to surgery. Arthur had large wounds on his back which were very infected; it wasn’t certain whether he would make it.
After surgery Arthur had to remain in quarantine for four long months. Like he did in the race before, Arthur made it through and found a home with Mikael and his family. The athlete was so moved by the dog’s story that he ended up creating his own foundation.
Part Of The Family
Mikael’s family fell in love with him, too. This dog who traveled 6,000 miles through the jungles of Ecuador wasn’t finished yet. “He’s not like a dog, he’s more like a personality,” Mikael said, tearing up. “He’s so clever, he’s so smart.”
The Arthur Foundation