A dog that went missing in Alaska last month arrived home safely after making a 150-mile trek on the frozen Bering Sea.
Nanuq, a one-year-old Australian Shepherd, appeared in the town of Wales, Alaska, in early April, wearing a collar and tag. But residents of the small community in Wales were confused: no one could figure out who the dog’s owner was.
“Lol we don’t know who’s dog this is, we’ve never seen it here in Wales before,” wrote a resident on a Facebook discussion group for locals, seen by Insider.
They posted photos of Nanuq, who appeared healthy and friendly.
About 166 miles away on St. Lawrence Island, Mandy Iworrigan received word that her daughter’s missing dog had shown up on the end of the Bering Strait.
“My dad texted me and he said, ‘there’s a dog that looks like Nanuq in Wales’,'” Iworrigan told Insider. “And I was like, “No freaking way, that’s our dog!”
It turned out that Nanuq, whose name means “polar bear” in Siberian Yupik, had gone missing together with Starlight, another of the family’s dogs, Iworrigan said.
Their dogs often go out on their own into the tundra, but typically return after a week or two, said Iworrigan.
But when Nanuq and Starlight went missing for longer than usual, Iworrigan’s family got concerned and searched around town for their pets.
Then Starlight showed up in Savoonga, a town 37 miles from Gambell but still on St. Lawrence Island, around two and a half weeks after vanishing, Iworrigan said.
Nanuq, however, apparently took an additional week to walk across Bering Sea ice and arrive in Wales.
Iworrigan isn’t sure how Nanuq survived the long winter trek to Wales, but surmised he might have caught animals in the area.
“I was just amazed he made it all the way out there,” she said. “He’s a survivor.”
She used airline points to get the pup a spot on a regional charter plane last week, after the dog had stayed with some local friends in Wales for a few days.
A video posted by Iworrigan on Friday showed her daughter reuniting with Nanuq after the plane landed.
The family later posted photos of Nanuq in their home, declaring he was in good health. Iworrigan noticed several bite marks on Nanuq’s leg, but said she wasn’t sure if they were caused by a wolverine, seal, or small polar bear, she told Insider.
“He had a bite mark on his leg, and it was really swollen right there,” she said. On Wednesday, Iworrigan posted on Facebook that Nanuq was receiving the medication he needs.
When asked if she ever feared the worst about Nanuq and Starlight, Iworrigan said she always believed they’d come back.
“I just knew, you know, in my heart that they were alive. Dogs are smart,” she said.