Stray dog joins grueling race, won't abandon team until finish line

SAO PAULO -- A team of four extreme athletes completing a 430-mile adventure race through the Amazon made an unlikely friend along the way.

With 20 miles left in the race, Swedish athlete Mikael Lindnord was eating from a can of meatballs when he noticed a stray dog. Lindnord said he decided to throw one of the meatballs toward the dog.

According to the "Daily Mail," when the team of four got up from their break, the dog followed them into the Ecuadorian rain forest and refused to leave their sides. The team decided to name him Arthur.

Arthur followed the team through all the courses. At one point, Arthur got stuck in mud and the team had to help him out.

Before starting the last leg of the race, officials advised the team not to bring Arthur along for his safety and their own. As the four human team members set off in their kayaks, Arthur, refusing to be left behind, jumped into the water and started paddling behind them.

"This was too heartbreaking for the team, and Mikael helped Arthur up in the kayak," the team wrote on their Facebook page. "This led to standing ovations from everyone on the shore, seeing the five (!) team mates set off."

Along the way, the team would often share their own food with Arthur, because he couldn't find any in the Amazon.

Six days later, the team of five finished the race together.

The team brought Arthur to an Ecuadorian vet as the dog had a few injuries from the race, including a deep cut on his back.

The team said they couldn't leave Arthur behind and started looking for ways to bring him back to Sweden.

Lindnord set up a PayPal account for donations to help cover Arthur's vet bills and travel expenses.

Eventually, the Swedish board of agriculture (Jordbruksverket) approved Arthur's entry into the country. "I almost cried in front of the computer, when receiving the decision from Jordbruksverket in Sweden!" Lindnord said on Facebook.

Just last week, Arthur landed on Swedish ground safely with Lindnord. The now-famous dog was greeted by the media and fans.

Arthur is currently in quarantine for 120 days. After that period, he will live with Lindnord and his wife and daughter.

Lindnord told HLN that once Arthur is "100% recovered," the faithful dog will go wherever he goes, maybe even on another race.