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How Arthur the jungle dog 'opened doors and minds'

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How Arthur the jungle dog 'opened doors and minds'
Arthur the Ecuadorian dog. Photo: Håkan Nordström/TT
11:25 CEST+02:00
The incredible story of how a Swede rescued a stray dog from the Ecuadorian rainforest became global news in 2014, and it's now the subject of a book. The Local spoke to author Mikael Lindnord.

From starving in the Ecuadorian jungle to celebrity and a cosy family home in the north of Sweden, life has changed dramatically for Arthur since he was rescued in late 2014. There has been plenty of change for Mikael too, who has received a huge amount of interest in the tale, and has now finished penning a book

The Local spoke to Lindnord, who is currently touring the United Kingdom with Arthur to promote the book, about why he is telling the story, and how Arthur is helping to change attitudes towards stray animals.

For those still unaware, how did you come to rescue Arthur?

I've been adventure racing for 20 years, and in 2014 the world championships were in Ecuador. After four days of racing I stopped to fix my bike and started eating some Swedish meatballs I had packed. Out of the corner of my eyes I saw this stray dog, really poor looking, smelly and bleeding. I thought he probably has all the diseases in the world, but at the same time I was struck by how no one had ever treated him well, so I gave him a couple of the meatballs.

Then, we continued on this huge jungle trek with mud up to our knees. After a while I could see a dog following us, and when he came closer I realized it was the same one I gave meatballs to. When we eventually stopped for a break I saw him lying down, exhausted, with only one eye open. So I gave him the rest of the meatballs, a huge amount of food for him.


Arthur follows Mikael and his teammates through the race. Photo: Krister Göransson/TT

He kept following us and we didn't really know what to do. The breaking point was when we had to do some kayaking and the race staff said we couldn't bring him. The minute we paddled away he started howling, then jumped out into the water and swam after us. Sometimes you just have to trust your gut, and it felt right to pull him into the kayak, even though that was the first time he was really close to me. I didn't know if he would bite, if he had diseases, but I had to make a decision.

What swayed your decision to adopt him once you finished the race?

The place that we found him in was a really poor area of Ecuador. No roads, people living in what weren't really houses. So the priority isn't animals, there's already a huge problem with the people, who are exceptionally poor.

The idea of adopting him to Sweden came up, and from then onwards it was a crazy rush. So many phone calls, the vets, all the official stuff. Yes, no, yes, no. Then we had an Ecuadorian government minister calling to give us the final word. Literally 20 minutes before checking into the flight home we got the final call with the approval. I slept through the entire flight back to Sweden.

How quickly did Arthur adjust to life back in Sweden?

He was in quarantine for four months, he had to have surgery on his teeth. His fur was so dirty that his skin was black instead of its natural white. But he's a survivor.

When he finally came home (from quarantine), we opened all the doors so he could smell everywhere, and he just slept all night like he had been there all his life. He's very a much a family dog. He knows he belongs with the family, with our kids. When our youngest Thor was only a few hours old, his gran and granddad had been walking the dog, so he hadn't met him. Arthur came into the room and immediately jumped up on my lap – gran and granddad were a bit scared, but I told them not to worry – then he just licked Thor two times on the head and ran off.


Arthur, Mikael and family during Christmas 2015 Photo: Håkan Nordström/TT

In the period that followed the media attention was huge. What was that like?

When we came home it was… I had e-mails every minute. Boom, boom, boom. Telephone interviews, Skype interviews. It was crazy.

When we first touched down in Sweden there was so much drama with all the news. We learned from that, so after he finally got out of quarantine we hired a press secretary for a few days. Everyone was calling at the same time.


Arthur and Mikael on the Wings for Life World Run in 2015. Photo: Richard Ström/wingsforlifeworldrun.com

I still get mail on a daily basis, and where I live in Örnsköldsvik people come up to me and talk to me all the time. So I thought, maybe we should make a book. This story seems to move so many people. I think it was something I had to do.

Is there any truth behind rumours of a movie to follow the book?

I don't know if there's going to be a Hollywood movie or not, but I do know there's a huge interest in it. I think it would be brilliant. We could use it to help address the problem with stray dogs in the area. We didn't do this to be famous or write a book, it was more like Arthur chose me.

You mentioned the problem with strays in Ecuador, has Arthur's story helped change that?

We have a foundation there. There have been huge earthquakes in the area where he's from, so we wanted to help rebuild, and get food and drink to the dogs. The reaction in Ecuador has been huge. Before, some people there had been working to help strays but they couldn't make a lot of noise. Dogs have no rights in Ecuador.

Arthur shows that it's not OK to treat them badly. It wasn't on purpose, but I understand now that Arthur opened a lot of doors and has opened a lot of minds. People understand now ‘OK, this is the way we should be doing things'.

Arthur's now a huge name in Ecuador and beyond (the Youtube report on his story has over 1.6 million hits), but how did you name him in the first place?

He was very silent in the beginning, but at the same time he was proud. I was in the middle of the jungle and I had some inspiration. I was thinking of the Knights of the Round Table, I thought of King Arthur – quiet but proud. So Arthur was the name.

'Arthur: The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home' by Mikael Lindnord is out now in Two Roads hardback, priced £14.99 and is also available as an ebook.

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