Mountaineers don’t usually have four legs and a wagging tail, but Rupee isn’t your typical climber. In fact, the 8-month-old mixed-breed dog has become the first dog in recorded history to reach the Mount Everest Base Camp.
Rupee’s ascent is no small feat — the Everest Base Camp sits at a whopping altitude of 17,598 feet. He completed the journey with his new owner, Joanne Lefson, a world traveler and animal advocate who adopted the mountain-climbing Mutt after finding him in a garbage dump.
When Lefson first found little Rupee, the poor guy was in awful shape. Suffering in the late stages of dehydration and starvation, Rupee was near-death.
“When I saw him on that dumpsite he couldn’t have had more than an hour to live,” Lefson tells the Daily Mail. “He couldn’t even walk ten meters without collapsing.”
Lefson has spent a long time globetrotting, trying to raise awareness for dogs in need. After losing her last world-traveling canine companion, Oscar, in a tragic car accident, she knew Rupee would make a great new sidekick. Lefson decided to adopt the little guy on the spot.
But Rupee would have a long way to go before he was well enough to accompany Lefson on her travels.
“The puppy couldn’t have been in a lower place,” Lefson tells The Hindu. “The little fellow had heart, I could tell that, but he was so weak having no food or water for days, if not weeks.”
With a little TLC and a lot of egg-and-rice high-protein meals, Rupee bounced back. Inspired by her new pup’s hasty recovery, she decided to see if Rupee would be able to join her on a trip she’d been planning for a while — an arduous hike up the tallest mountain in the world.
“My greatest concern was wondering If Rupee could actually make it,” Lefson explains.
After several trips to the veterinarian, who told Lefson Rupee would not suffer from altitude sickness — a sometimes-dangerous condition that occurs from the lack of oxygen at high altitudes — the world traveler felt confident that her pup could make the trek. Still she made plans for an exit strategy just in case Rupee needed to bail from the expedition.
“I prepared for the worst and arranged an extra porter in case Rupee needed to hitch a ride,” she says.
But nimble Rupee managed just fine, and just 10 days and one yak attack later, Lefson and her pooch pal arrived safely at the Mount Everest Base Camp. She says one thing she will never forget is watching Rupee play in the snow for the first time.
“He played in it at every opportunity,” she says, “chased it and even tried to chew on it at times.”
As the pair approached Base Camp on October 26, two embroidered prayer flags were tied “with the wish that the Gods above will bestow a home on all the homeless dogs below,” Lefson explains.
Though Lefson is certainly proud of Rupee, she can’t help but think of Oscar; before Oscar’s sudden death, Lefson had been planning to complete the Everest trek with him.
“The trek to the top of the world was done in Oscar’s honor,” she says poignantly.
“Oscar gave a face to the masses and made us realize that even when just one dog is adopted, we may not change the world but it will change the world for that animal forever,” Lefson tells the New York Daily News.
Lefson hopes that the mission she began with her late buddy Oscar and continues today alongside Rupee will inspire people to consider adopting a dog in need.
“Oscar will never be replaced and it’s been difficult trying to pick up the pieces but the one thing that keeps me going is honoring his legacy and working towards the day when every homeless dog will have a forever home,” she adds. “Rupee is simply an extension of Oscar’s legacy and a fine example of what can be achieved when a homeless dog is given a second chance.”