Lost Iditarod dog found 3 months after disappearing from checkpoint

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — An Iditarod sled dog missing for nearly three months after disappearing from the race has been found safe, the Iditarod Trail Committee said Saturday.

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Leon, a dog belonging to musher Sebastien Dos Santos Borges of France, was last seen at the Ruby checkpoint of the annual dog-sledding race in Alaska on March 13, KTUU-TV reported.

“After nearly three months and almost 150 miles covered since his escape from the Ruby checkpoint, the ITC is elated to announce that Leon has been found and is safely in the custody of his owner, Sebastien Dos Santos Borges,” the Iditarod Trail Committee wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday. “A local community member in McGrath was able to catch Leon and transport him by boat back to his home.”

According to race officials, Leon slipped out of his collar and coat at the Ruby checkpoint, KTUU reported. According to an email from the Iditarod, Dos Santos Borges switched Leon’s collar from a racing collar to a loose collar “despite protests” from veterinarians on site, the television station reported.

Iditarod officials said that Leon was spotted near McGrath, more than 120 miles south of the checkpoint, on May 31. The owner of a homestead who spotted the animal left out food, hoping to catch the wayward canine, KTUU reported.

Leon was captured early Saturday morning. Iditarod spokesperson Shannon Markley told The Associated Press that Leon was safe, alert, and “understandably skinny but seemingly healthy.”

“The Iditarod cannot express enough gratitude for all of Iditarod Nation’s help, prayers, thoughts and well wishes for Leon,” Iditarod officials wrote on Facebook. “Alaska is an incredibly special place as is the spirit of the community, which is part of what makes The Last Great Race so special. Thank you, Iditarod Nation, and welcome home, Leon.”