You can’t make an epic journey without earning a few battle wounds!
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Mandy Iworrigan lives in Gambell, a village on St. Lawrence Island in Alaska, with her three children. All of Mandy’s kids have a dog of their own, and it’s not unusual for the pups to go on adventures from time to time. Usually, they come back within a few days, but recently, that wasn’t the case.
At the end of February, Mandy and the kids went for a visit to Savoonga, a town almost 40 miles away. That’s when two of the family dogs, Nanuq and Starlight, plus Mandy’s uncle’s dog, Ghost, took advantage of their absence and bolted. Mandy sent her partner out looking for them, but there was no sign of them anywhere.
Two weeks later, Mandy’s daughters were playing at a friend’s house in Savoonga when suddenly, a dog that looked suspiciously like Starlight appeared!
“My girls went to go play out, and they said, ‘mom, mom, mom — there’s a dog that looks like Starlight,'” Mandy recalled.
The dog refused to leave the youngest girl’s side, even running alongside the snowmobile she rode on until they realized it actually was their dog. They have no clue how Starlight wound up 37 miles from home, but they were beyond relieved to bring her back home!
But where was Nanuq?
The 1-year-old Australian shepherd was still missing over a week later when Mandy received a text from her dad.
“My dad texted me and said, ‘There’s a dog that looks like Nanuq in Wales,'” she said.
Mandy could not believe her ears, even after finding Starlight so far from home. Wales, Alaska is a tiny village about 166 miles from Gambell. To get there, one must traverse an icy passage across the Bering Straight, skipping between frozen plates of sea ice to the Seward Peninsula.
For weeks, locals had been talking about a dog no one knew wandering around the tundra. When Mandy’s father saw the photo, he recognized Nanuq instantly. His family was flabbergasted but thrilled to have tracked him down!
“I have no idea why he ended up in Wales,” said Mandy incredulously. “Maybe the ice shifted while he was hunting. I’m pretty sure he ate leftovers of seal or caught a seal. Probably birds, too. He eats our Native foods. He’s smart.”
Getting Nanuq back home wasn’t an easy task, but area residents came together to help Mandy arrange transport on a small plane carrying school children for a Native youth Olympics tournament. She shared a long video of the sweet moments when Nanuq’s crate is lifted out of the plane so he can receive hugs and love from his excited family. Starlight was also very happy to see her friend!
Nanuq didn’t return completely unscathed; he has two big bite marks from an unidentified animal. Mandy thinks it could be from a run-in with a polar bear — which, as it happens, are called nanuq in her Native tongue. Friends and family pitched in to help her pay for antibiotics for the wandering canine, and he’s now on the mend. All of Mandy’s kids are just happy to have their four-legged siblings back in the pack!
“If dogs could talk, both of them would have one heck of a story,” said Mandy.
Now that’s what we call an adventure! We can’t imagine what Nanuq encountered on his 166-mile, one-month journey across the Bering Straight, but we’re very glad he’s home safe and sound.
Share this story with anyone who has a wandering spirit (or dog!) like Nanuq.
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