Iditarod Sled Dog Found 3 Months After Going Missing from Race Checkpoint: 'Life Is Good'

·3 min read
Iditarod Sled Dog, Leon, Found 3 Months After Going Missing from Race Checkpoint seen with owner Sébastien Dos Santos Borges
Iditarod Sled Dog, Leon, Found 3 Months After Going Missing from Race Checkpoint seen with owner Sébastien Dos Santos Borges

Regal Air

A sled dog has reunited with his owner three months after going missing from an Iditarod race checkpoint in Alaska.

Leon, a 3-year-old husky, went missing in March while racing The Iditarod across Alaska with his owner Sébastien Dos Santos Borges, the Iditarod Trail Committee (ITC) shared on the famous sled dog race's Facebook page.

Leon disappeared on March 13 when he "escaped out of the returned dog area at the Ruby checkpoint" of the race, the ITC explained after Leon vanished. In April, the race offered a $1,000 reward for information that would lead to Leon's return home.

According to ITC, the pup's journey home began in late May when residents told Mark Nordman — an Iditarod race director and marshall — they had seen Leon multiple times near a cabin in McGrath, Alaska. The city is more than 120 miles south of the Ruby checkpoint, per the Associated Press.

RELATED: Loggerhead Turtle Lays Over 100 Eggs After Recovering From 'Severe' Shark Attack at Miami Zoo

The cabin owner, who also races with sled dogs, began to put out food for Leon "in hopes to help contain him," ITC shared on Facebook on June 4. The strategy appeared to work as another local managed to find and catch Leon, allowing the dog to reunite with Sebastien in Alaska. The pair will soon head home to France.

"The Iditarod cannot express enough gratitude for all of Iditarod Nation's help, prayers, thoughts, and well wishes for Leon. From the volunteers to the search fund organizers and the individual donors, community members along the trail, and the heroes of McGrath who have helped towards the cause of finding Leon," the ITC said in a statement, adding, "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!"

RELATED: Aquarium Helps Grant 104-Year-Old Woman's Wish to Pet a Penguin: 'Never Thought it Would Happen'

Expressing his joy over Leon's return on Facebook, Sébastien shared a sweet post to celebrate the moment.

"Leon is with me! A great story, a beautiful story of love and friendship between all the people who helped, who thought very hard about this reunion. Thank you! Life is gooooood !" he wrote on Facebook alongside an adorable close-up of Leon.

RELATED VIDEO: Tennessee Couple Wakes Up with Stranger's Dog Snuggling Them in Bed- 'Is This Your Dog?'

Want to get the biggest stories from PEOPLE every weekday? Subscribe to our new podcast, PEOPLE Every Day, to get the essential celebrity, entertainment and human interest news stories Monday through Friday.

"This tale of Leon not only reflects the endurance and character of the Alaskan sled dog, but also illustrates how people work together throughout Alaska in support of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race to make things happen.   We are ecstatic that Leon is now reunited with Sébastien," Nordman said in a statement shared with PEOPLE.

A Facebook fundraiser to help find Leon brought in $8,500, exceeding its $5,000 goal.

The beloved dog was "understandably skinny but seemingly healthy" upon his return, Iditarod spokesperson Shannon Markley told AP, adding that Leon will visit a veterinarian and get a health certificate before going back to France.