Even through the tears of tragedy, puppy breath can help heal a broken heart.
Joanne Lefson, from South Africa, was visiting a donkey sanctuary she had started years ago at a Himalayan village in northern India. She was trying to recover from the tragic death of her dog, Oscar, which happened a few months earlier.
Lefson and Oscar had documented their travels to more than 36 countries on their "World Woof Tour" in an effort highlight the plight of homeless dogs worldwide. This cause was close to their hearts, since Oscar had been adopted just days before he was scheduled to be put down in 2004.
Their world tour was to culminate with an expedition to a Mt. Everest base camp, where they would hang prayer flags with wishes for homeless dogs everywhere to find their forever homes.
Oscar's legacy continues...
Unfortunately, Oscar was unable to complete "Expedition Mutt Everest" after tragically being run over and killed in January of 2013 at the age of 9.
Perhaps Lefson was thinking about Oscar in the shadow of the same mountain range of Everest, some 700 miles away. Perhaps Oscar knew his guardian needed encouragement from beyond the Great Divide and sent her another puppy who needed her too.
Somehow the weak puppy used his last bit of strength to make a beeline towards the hurting animal advocate, and collapsed at her feet.
“The puppy couldn’t have been in a lower place. The little fellow had heart, I could tell that, but he was so weak having no food or water for days - if not weeks. How could I possibly turn away?" said Lefson. She took him in and nursed him back to health with a high-protein diet of eggs and rice. She wondered about the events of that day and if there was a deeper connection. "Dogs up here are afraid of people - but this one ran to me with a purpose. Perhaps Oscar had sent him to me to stop my tears.”
Rupee and Lefson at the dump in Leh, India
She named the pup Rupee, after the Indian dollar, which is worth just a fraction of a penny. But Rupee has turned out to be invaluable as a travel companion. Due to his upbringing at high altitude, his veterinarian felt he was a good candidate for the climb to the Mount Everest base camp.
Lefson was still concerned enough about Rupee's well being that she hired an extra porter to carry him, should the trek become too difficult. The hikers did encounter difficulties including weather delays and even a yak attack. But Rupee seemed born for the journey and did just fine. The young pup seemed delighted with the snow, playing in it and biting the snow.
News outlets around the world are trumpeting the amazing feat of rescued Rupee as "The First Dog to Climb Mt. Everest". Rupee is not the first, nor has he climbed the highest (read this amazing article about dogs on Everest), but his story is still compelling.
We are in awe of Lefson and Rupee's stamina as they have gone through considerable difficulties to bring attention to the problem of dogs dying for a second chance in shelters around the world. Surely Oscar is proud too. Perhaps his spirit was carried along with the prayer flags blowing in the wind.
Maybe it smells a bit like puppy breath.