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Stray Dog Follows Climbers 23,000 Feet Up A Mountain

The Dodo logo The Dodo 3/21/2019 Caitlin Jill Anders
a dog that is standing in the snow © Don Wargowsky

Don Wargowsky is an avid climber who is passionate about what he does, so when he was asked to lead an expedition of international climbers through Mera Peak and Baruntse, two mountains in Nepal, he happily accepted the challenge. It can get pretty quiet up in the mountains, as there aren’t many creatures who are willing to make the trek through all the ice and snow — which is why the entire team was shocked when they met a stray dog along the way. 

On the 10th day of their 34-day expedition, at around 18,000 feet on a glacier with tons of crevices and obstacles, a sweet street dog, later named Baru, appeared out of nowhere. Wargowsky instantly recognized her from one of the villages they’d passed through, and realized she must have decided to follow the group on their journey. 

a group of people riding skis down a snow covered slope © Don Wargowsky

What was mystifying was how she had made it up there on her own. The climb was not an easy one, and Wargowsky suddenly felt foolish knowing he needed so much gear when this skinny little dog had done the climb with nothing but her own four paws. While she had seemed shy and scared in the village, she was surging with confidence up on the mountain, and happily greeted all of her new friends as she ran around the group. 

a group of people riding skis on a snowy mountain © Don Wargowsky

“I have had dogs follow me on climbs before, but never on something like this,” Wargowsky wrote in a blog post about his travels. “I instantly begin to picture this dog joining us for the duration of the trip. It would be so great to have a companion, a temporary Nepali therapy dog. Then I start to think about exactly what we’ll be doing in the next few weeks and the dream fades.” 

Wargowsky thought there was no way that Baru would be able to join them on their potentially treacherous journey — but the spunky dog quickly proved him wrong.   a group of people standing on top of a snow covered mountain © Don Wargowsky

On Baru’s first night with the group, she was too nervous to join Wargowsky in his tent, and instead slept right outside it despite how cold it was. After that first night, though, she realized no one in the group was going to hurt her and that the tent was perfectly safe, and she slept in the tent from then on. 

“She stayed with us for the duration of the trip,” Wargowsky told The Dodo. “She did exceptionally well. She climbed better than most humans.”

a man holding a dog © Don Wargowsky

As the days wore on, Baru continued to stay with her new friends, and every time they thought something would be too difficult for her to overcome, she proved everyone wrong. There was a period of time where she got separated from the group, but she eventually found her way back again, demonstrating over and over again just how special she really was. 

“Through all this [Baru] is a champ,” Wargowsky wrote. “I have limited amounts of food, but I split all my meals with her 50/50. She never begs for food or whines.” © Don Wargowsky

As their journey neared its end, Wargowsky began to worry about the fate of his new friend once it was time to head home. He and Baru formed a particularly strong bond, and the thought of leaving her filled him with so much anxiety. Still, he thought it would be unfair to bring her home with him to his tiny apartment, when she clearly loved having so much space to hike and be free. 

“My love and respect for this dog is immense,” Wargowsky wrote. “The thought of leaving ... her alone on the street breaks my heart.”

a group of people sitting in the snow © Don Wargowsky

It was an inner conflict that was practically making him ill — until someone stepped up and offered a home to the group’s beloved furry mascot. 

The group’s base camp manager, Kaji, was just as impressed with Baru as everyone else was, and decided that he and his family would be the ones to adopt her. It took several days and a lot of money to get Baru to her new home, but Kaji knew she was worth it, and Wargowsky did everything he could to help with the process. He hated having to eventually say goodbye to his faithful climbing companion, but he was overjoyed that she had found the best home and knew that, no matter what, they would be lifelong friends. 

a person and a dog posing for the camera © Don Wargowsky

“She is doing very well,” Wargowsky said. “I will be visiting her in Nepal this fall.”If you’d like to help other dogs like Baru, you can make a donation to Street Dog Care

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