Dehydrated and starving, and missing an ear: this was the state that Joanne Lefson, a former professional golfer from South Africa, found a puppy in back in September, in a dump site in the mountainous town of Leh in the province of Ladakh in northern India. She adopted the puppy and named him Rupee. Now, he not only has found a home. The pup has become the first dog to climb to Mt. Everest base camp.
Says Lefson about finding Rupee in India:
“When I saw him on that dumpsite he couldn’t have had more than an hour to live. He couldn’t even walk 100 feet without collapsing.
“The little fellow had heart, I could tell that but he was very weak from having no food and water for days, perhaps weeks.”
Lefson had previously traveled around the world with her dog, Oscar, to raise awareness for needy dogs. Lefson had rescued Oscar in 2004 from a shelter in South Africa, the day before he was due to be put down. The pair visited hundreds of landmarks and were planning to undertake an expedition to Mt. Everest when Oscar died in January after being struck by a truck in San Jose, California.
Memorializing Oscar, Lefson said that he was a dog who “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.”
It’s no surprise that Lefson would go on to rescue another dog. It is, however, a surprise that a formerly abandoned pup would make it all the way to Mt. Everest base camp.
After nursing Rupee back to health, Lefson decided to take him to Everest, on the journey she’d originally planned with Oscar. A veterinarian confirmed that Rupee could handle being 17,000 feet above sea level without suffering altitude sickness. (After all, he was born in the Himalayas.)
Along with Dev Argarwel, a film maker from Mumbai, Lefson and Rupee flew to Nepal. On October 14, “Expedition Mutt Everest 2013″ was launched in the Himalayan town of Lukla to raise awareness about the plight of homeless dogs and to promote pet adoption.
It took Lefson and Rupee 13 days to make their “one giant leap for dog-kind” and reach base camp at 17,598 feet on October 26. During their trek, Lefson said she worried that she might have to carry him as they crossed rickety bridges and went through wet mountain passes. She noted that she had hired an extra porter for Rupee but instead “he took the lead and pulled me along.” Rupee particularly loved snow, Lefson says, noting that he rolled around in it and tried to eat it.
As Lefson says of the two globetrotting dogs she rescued: “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.”
Rupee has now traveled back to South Africa with Lefson.