Before being safely restored to his home in Alaska, a 1-year-old Australian shepherd lost dog made an amazing journey across 150 miles of frozen Bering Sea ice, including being bitten by a seal or polar bear.
Nanuq’s owner, Mandy Iworrigan, of Gambell, Alaska, and her family were visiting Savoogna, another St. Lawrence Island village in the Bering Strait, last month when Nanuq and their other family dog, Starlight, went missing, according to the Anchorage Daily News.
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A few weeks later, Starlight reappeared, but Nanuq, which means polar bear in Siberian Yupik, was nowhere to be found.
People in Wales, 150 miles northeast of Savoonga on Alaska’s western shore, began posting images online of what they characterized as a Lost dog around a month after Nanuq vanished.
“My dad texted me and said, ‘There’s a dog that looks like Nanuq in Wales,'” Iworrigan explained.
She reopened her Facebook account to see if it was her lost hound.
“I was like, ‘No freakin’ way! That’s our dog! What is he doing in Wales?'” she said.
The circumstances of Nanuq’s journey will most likely remain a mystery.
“I have no idea why he ended up in Wales. Maybe the ice shifted while he was hunting,” Iworrigan said. “I’m pretty sure he ate leftovers of seal or caught a seal. Probably birds, too. He eats our Native foods. He’s smart.”
She used airline miles to fly her lost dog back to Gambell on a minor aircraft last week, on a charter carrying athletes to the Bering Strait School District’s Native Youth Olympics tournament.
Iworrigan captured the joyful reunion when the jet touched down at the Savoonga airstrip, with both she and her daughter Brooklyn shouting with delight.
“Sounds like a Disney Movie- but it’s REAL!” Iworrigan posted on Facebook.
Except for a swelling leg and extensive bite wounds from an unknown animal, Nanuq appeared to be in good health.
“Wolverine, seal, small nanuq, we don’t know, because it’s like a really big bite,” she said.
On Tuesday, Iworrigan shared a photo of Nanuq and thanked a local animal sanctuary for giving the lost dog treatment.