Mikael Lindnord and his team, Peak Performance, had no idea of the surprise waiting for them. What’s more, they were four days into a grueling seven-day adventure race around Ecuador when that surprise happened. And it was undoubtedly a lucky bonus: with severe fatigue and dehydration setting in, they would need every morale boost that they could get.
Lindnord had always been a sporty person. He played ice hockey as a boy growing up in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden, and had always enjoyed competing. Even during his mandatory military service for the Scandinavian kingdom, in fact, he had enjoyed pushing himself to his absolute limit.
“I had a strange talent, it seemed, not only for getting through things that would make most people give up, but for getting others through with me,” Lindnord said in a May 2016 article for The Telegraph. Perhaps, then, that was why he eventually developed a love of adventure racing.
Many elite athletes are drawn to this extreme sport, which can last any number of days. Each race is designed to test a team’s limits and incorporates sports such as cycling, running and kayaking to do so. Furthermore, race courses are often set through difficult terrain.
Still, since 2001 the annual Adventure Racing World Championship has been a mecca for extreme adventure enthusiasts from all over the world. In 2014, moreover, the race was held in Ecuador and featured an arduous 400-mile trek across the Andes.
Unable to resist the challenge, Lindnord and his team were among those to sign up for the mammoth race that year. However, after four tough days of competition, Peak Performance was beginning to feel the strain – and they still had a substantial part of the course to go.
And while deep in the Ecuadorian jungle, the team had to switch from cycling to walking. “We were feeling exhausted but positive,” Lindnord recalled to The Telegraph. “We were only a few hours behind the race leaders.” Curiously, though, as the team took a minute to eat before starting the next trek, a mangy dog approached.
Feeling sorry for the animal, Lindnord offered the dog some Swedish meatballs. At that point, he could see that the animal was not only hungry, but that it also suffered from some serious back lesions.
After feeding the hungry canine, though, Lindnord and his teammates continued on their way. They thought nothing of their kind deed until two hours later. That’s when Peak Performance was hacking through the thick forest and realized that the four-legged adventurer had kept pace.
Indeed, the little dog had been following them the whole way, even through the toughest parts of the race. And he brought hope to the team at a time they perhaps needed it most: the athletes were running on just five hours of sleep and suffering from dehydration.
Eventually then, Arthur, as they had named him, became the team’s unofficial mascot. Furthermore, they all agreed to share what food they had with the desperate doggy. And for six brutally hard days, Arthur loyally followed his new companions. Together they ran 24 miles through rainforests sometimes thick with mud and spent 14 hours kayaking – despite warnings.
“The organizers advised us not to bring Arthur, as it could be unsafe on the water,” Lindnord had previously explained to The Telegraph in November 2014. “But when we set off in the kayaks, he started swimming after us. It was too heart-breaking and we felt we couldn’t leave him, so we picked him up.”
And a few days later, the whole team, including Arthur, walked over the finish line together. Peak Performance had come in 12th place after seven long days and 430 miles, a quarter of which had been with Arthur. And their amazing journey didn’t end there.
Unable to leave Arthur’s future in the hands of fate, Lindnord decided to take the dog back to Sweden. The athlete later joked that the bureaucracy involved in getting Arthur home made the adventure race look easy. When Arthur was eventually given permission to travel, though, Lindnord said that he was so relieved that he “nearly cried.”
At first, Lindnord worried that the jungle-born dog might struggle in the freezing Swedish north. But Arthur quickly adapted. Life with Lindnord, his wife Helena and their two children was, after all, much easier than keeping up on an endurance course.
And, by all accounts, Arthur has adjusted well to the new climate. “Arthur loves snow and can’t get enough of it. The first time he saw snow, he just ran out and rolled around in it, and he has been doing that ever since,” Lindnord told the Daily Mail in December 2015. “His fur has gotten much thicker since he came here, and he actually did not like the heat during the summer.”
“When I was out running or walking with him, he always wanted to go for a swim in the ice-cold lake we have nearby,” Lindnord continued. “It is like he has lived up here in the north his entire life, even though he grew up in the warm rainforest of Ecuador. I think Arthur was meant to be here in Sweden.”
“Arthur bet his whole life on us. He bet everything to go with us through the jungle. So I bet on him and I have been very lucky – he’s the sweetest dog in the world,” Lindnord added.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the pair have become celebrities now in their native Sweden. Lindnord has even penned a book titled Arthur: The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle To Find a Home. “I sometimes think that, in an inexplicable way, my whole 20-year racing career led me to Arthur, and I’m proud of that,” the writer revealed to The Telegraph in May 2016.
“I came to Ecuador to win the World Championship. Instead, I got a new friend,” Lindnord has also said to the Daily Mail. And there’s no doubt that their friendship is an inspiring one at that.