Monday, February 24, 2014


Rupee became famous last fall when he and his mom, Joanne Lefson, climbed all the way to the base camp on Mt. Everest, which is 17,598 feet up.  Why would a dog climb Mt. Everest?  Well, the answer is easy:  because it's there!

Except in Rupee's case, the answer is a little more complicated than that.  It all really started with Ms. Lefson's previous dog, Oscar, who was rescued from the SPCA in Cape Town, South Africa, the day before he was going to be euthanized.  In 2009, Ms. Lefson and Oscar started out on a trip around the world to tell people about the plight of shelter dogs and to raise money to help them.

Oscar at Machu Picchu
Photo:  Joanne Lefson

They went all sorts of places, like to the Pyramids in Egypt and to Machu Picchu and to Rio de Janeiro and to Pakistan and to Las Vegas.  Oscar's mom wrote a book about their travels, and it was called Ahound the World: My Travels with Oscar.  I have not read this book, but if you want to read it, you can get it on Amazon.

Ms. Lefson had planned to take Oscar on a trek up Mr. Everest but then, tragically, Oscar got hit by a car and killed in California in January 2013.  Later on in the year, in Ladakh, Northern India, Ms. Lefson rescued an 8-month-old puppy from a dump site.  "The little fellow had heart, I could tell that," she said later in an interview, "but he was very weak from having no food and water for days, perhaps weeks."

Photo:  Caters News Agency

She named him Rupee and took him home with her to South Africa.  After he started getting good food and good care, he made a quick recovery.  Rupee's vet said that he was healthy enough to make a trek up Mt. Everest.  In fact, since Rupee was born and had lived in a town at 11,000 feet, he would probably do better in the thin air on the mountain than lots of human trekkers would.

Photo:  Caters News Agency

So in October, Rupee and his mom went back to India.  Ms. Lefson planned the trek up the mountain, including hiring a filmmaker, Dev Argarwel, to go along to document the journey.  She also brought along an extra porter in case Rupee couldn't make it the whole way and needed to be carried down.

Photo:  Caters News Agency

Some news sources reported that Joanne Lefson and Rupee climbed all the way to the summit of Mt. Everest, but this is not true.  They only went as far as the base camp.  Which is nothing to sneeze at because, like I told you, the base camp is at an altitude of 17,598 feet.  Even the people who said that Rupee was the first dog ever to make it to Base Camp were probably wrong.  Some veteran climbers of Everest have said that they see one or two stray dogs every year from the Khumbu Valley in Nepal who follow trekkers up and then settle in at Base Camp during the climbing season.

Photo:  Caters News Agency

Anyway, it took Rupee and Ms. Lefson eight-and-a-half days to make their "Mutt Everest" trek.  When they got to Base Camp on October 26, they set up a pair of embroidered flags in honor of homeless dogs.  I don't know whether Ms. Lefson will write a book about Rupee, like she did about Oscar.  I think maybe she will, but first the two of them might have to travel around and do some other exciting things.  I don't know if they will climb another mountain, though.  Once you've done Everest, what else is left?

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