(SEATTLE) — The 1,000 mile Iditarod race through the Alaskan snow wasn’t the hardest part of the expedition for four teams and 53 dogs from Norway; the most difficult journey was getting back home.
The Norwegian teams were planning to fly from home via connecting plane trips from Anchorage to Seattle and then Seattle to Norway.
But when they arrived at the airport in Anchorage, they were told the cargo planes wouldn’t fly the dogs from Alaska to Seattle, ABC affiliate KOMO-TV in Seattle reported.
“The only option was renting a U-Haul, put crates inside, make some air for the dogs and drive 2,500 miles,” dog handler Karl-Erik Andersen told KOMO.
Along the way, Andersen explained how they’ve had to make numerous stops and create makeshift camping sites wherever they could find a place big enough to let the dozens of dogs out.
But on Tuesday morning, after being on the road for five days, the exhausted huskies and their humans finally got a helping hand from the Nisqually Indian Tribe in Olympia, Washington. Nisqually tribe employee Heidi Thomas spotted the team on the roadside and took action.
“To see these other dogs and what I knew was a stressful situation for them,” Thomas told KOMO. “My heart just said to stop and see what was going on.”
Thomas and the Nisqually invited the dogs and the mushers to stay on their land.
“We’re always willing to lend a hand, especially with people in need,” Nisqually tribal council secretary Sheila McCloud told KOMO.
The pups were able to play in the open field and get fresh water and warm meals, while the mushers were able to get some rest and hot showers. “This is a paradise for us — very nice,” musher Dag Olsen told KOMO.
Andersen added that Thomas was “an angel taking care of us.”
The dogs and mushers arrived in Seattle today to board their scheduled flight to Norway. “I want to know that they made it home safe,” Thomas said.
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