This daring dog took hiking to the next level, somehow traveling more than 160 miles over the frozen sea—and surviving at least one encounter with an Arctic predator—before returning home.
Nanuq, an Australian shepherd, went missing while his family was on a trip in March, Anchorage Daily reports. Two of the family’s other dogs, Starlight and Ghost, also went missing. The pups live with their family in Gambell, a small town on Alaska’s St. Lawrence Island. They disappeared while the humans were in Savoonga, another town on the island about 37 miles away.
Mandy Iworrigan, the dogs’ mom, told the newspaper she had her partner search around the area for Nanuq and Starlight, but they had no luck finding them. Ghost, Iworrigan’s uncle’s dog, is a pretty consistent escape artist—but the uncle said he “always finds his way back.”
While playing outside in Savoonga, Iworrigan’s daughters noticed a pup who appeared to be eerily similar to Starlight. Iworrigan wasn’t convinced when the girls first told her until she noticed the dog kept following her youngest daughter around. The dog was in fact Starlight, but Nanuq was still nowhere to be found.
Around a month after he went missing, Iworrigan’s dad found a possible Nanuq spotting—but it wasn’t what she expected. His text to her said there was a dog in Wales, Alaska, who looked just like Nanuq. Wales is 166 miles away and across the Bering Sea.
Photos of the lookalike pooch appeared on a local Facebook group. Iworrigan looked to see if the dog really could be Nanuq. Once she saw the pictures, she knew it had to be him.
“I was like, ‘No freakin’ way! That’s our dog! What is he doing in Wales?'” Iworrigan told the newspaper.
Nanuq’s impressive journey over a frozen sea remains a mystery, though Iworrigan thinks her intelligent pup probably survived by hunting or eating other animals’ hunting remains.
Getting Nanuq back home was an adventure in itself, as there are no direct flights from Wales to St. Lawrence Island. However, there happened to be a charter flight bringing students from Wales to Gambell for a youth olympics tournament—and Nanuq was able to hitch a ride on the plane.
The family was overjoyed when the plane landed and Nanuq was finally back from his wild adventure last week. Iworrigan posted a video on Facebook of the pup’s return—the family erupting with cheers and excitement as Nanuq is unloaded from the plane. Starlight is also there, front and center, waiting to greet her brother upon his arrival.
The pup arrived in fairly good health, although he did have a swollen leg with a couple large bite marks. No one is quite sure what kind of animal left them, but Iworrigan suspects a seal, wolverine, or even a small polar bear could’ve bit Nanuq.
Nanuq is now safe at home and recovering with his human and canine family after his lengthy journey.
“If dogs could talk, both [Nanuq and Starlight] would have one heck of a story,” Iworrigan told the newspaper.