Few stories are as timeless as a man and his dog. For Mikael Lindnord and his mongrel, Arthur, the story is one for the ages. Few could have predicted the circumstances that would bring them together: a chance encounter during the 2014 Adventure Racing World Championship in the mountainous jungles of Ecuador.
An extreme endurance athlete from Örnsköldsvik, Sweden, Lindnord and his Peak Performance team had entered the race with an eye on the podium. For the ever-competitive Lindnord, the race represented his team’s chance for a major breakthrough after years of steady improvement.
“I did everything to win [this race]. We had spent all the sponsorship money, all our savings, everything to go to Ecuador,” he says.
Over the course of 700 kilometres, the race would take its contestants through mountains, jungle, marsh, and river — running, cycling, and kayaking nearly nonstop for days on end. Lindnord’s team from Sweden had been preparing for months.
A race of such magnitude is difficult enough to finish without curveballs, but sometimes, fate intervenes. On a designated transition area midway through the race, Lindnord’s team had paused to refuel on food when he spotted something out of the corner of his eye: a stray dog looking at him from across the courtyard.
The first reaction I had is, like, don’t come close to me — because I [could] get all the diseases in the world,” says Lindnord, now the author of Arthur: The Dog who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home.
Covered in dirt, and with an open sore on its backside, the dog was clearly hurt — and as Lindnord dug into his pouch of cooked food, a pang of guilt hit him.
“I looked at him again, and I thought, no one has ever been nice to this fellow. I took some meatballs and put them in front of him on the ground — two, three meatballs at most, because I was eating.”
With that, he and his team were off on the road again — out of sight, out of mind. It wasn’t until later that night that Lindnord and his team learned they had picked up a follower. In the dark of the night, his headlamp flashed across the figure of a dog — the same dog as before. He had followed them for kilometres — hours of travel — through the jungle.
Even as the way became increasingly difficult — the trail turning to knee-deep mud, and then river crossings — the dog followed, and a bond grew between him and Lindnord. It became clear he was coming along for the journey. So began Arthur’s journey from stray dog in Ecuador to Swedish celebrity.
Arthur finished the race with Team Peak Performance — despite his ill health, and despite the race’s kayak segment. The team missed out on a podium finish, but they had picked up a new member — and caught the world’s attention in the process. In the days after the race, Lindnord called home to his wife: he wanted to bring Arthur back to Sweden.
“He put everything on this golden ticket. He [risked] his life to [follow] us,” says Lindnord.
Now three years later, Arthur still leaves Lindnord with a catch in his throat.
“Arthur has changed everything for me,” he says. “He didn’t give up. He never gave up.”