Stray Dog Joins Cyclists on Race to Tibet
The group of cyclists was five days into a 1,700 kilometer race from Sichuan Province to Llasa, Tibet, when they spotted the ball of white fur lying in the sun on the side of National Highway 318.
One of the cyclists, 22-year-old Xiao Yong, tossed a chicken drumstick to the little canine and evidently struck up a bond, because she began to follow them.
After the dog ran alongside the team for a week, proving to be a "cyclist's best friend," they set up a blog that gained 40,000 followers. The story was featured on China.org, where the little dog has become an Internet sensation.
Over 20 days of treacherous mountain cycling, the dog they nicknamed Xiao Sa, or Little Sa, kept running. She ran 50 to 60 kilometers per day, climbing a dozen mountains over 13,000 feet.
"There was one day when we climbed the 14,700 ft. peak of Anijula Mountain," Yong said. "We did more than 40 miles uphill and at the end I had to get off and push my bike." After the dog ran ahead, she became impatient and returned to jump up on Yong. "I could see she cared about me."
Many cyclists dropped out of the expedition from exhaustion, especially in the thin air of the Tibetan Plateau, but Yong said the little dog kept them going until the end. Sometimes, when she was tired or they were racing down steep descents, he would pick her up and carry her in a makeshift box he had on the back of his bike.
"Once, a large dog started chasing us along a series of dark tunnels and his barking drew a whole pack of others," Yong said. "I put Xiao Sa on my bike and started pedalling desperately. One of my bags was ripped, but otherwise we got away."
Nearly 300 cyclists participated in the cross-country event, and of those who finished, many hitchhiked or took buses along the way. Only Xiao Yong and three of his companions — accompanied by their faithful little friend — completed the entire journey.
In Lhasa, she received a full vet exam and then boarded a plane. Xiao Yong plans to give her a warm home in Wuhan, in central China's Hubei Province, where he is a college student.
Her Chinese Internet fans nicknamed her "Forrest Gump" for her extreme stamina, and photographs of the little dog in front of Lhasa's Potala Palace brought cheers.
--Cyndy Patrick/photo courtesy of Matt Lomax
Cyndy Patrick is a life-long animal-lover who opened her own pet salon and commenced to giving doggie hairdos (and bathing some pretty unhappy cats). She hung up her clippers to pursue a career as an environmental journalist and photographer. She is a student at San Jose State, loves to swim in the ocean and sleep under the stars.