Made 50,000-Mile Journey With Expedition : Bothie, the Only Dog to Visit Both Poles
In the new “Guinness Book of Pet Records” is an entry for the only dog ever to set paw on both the South and North poles. That isn’t memorial enough to suit Sir Ranulph and Lady Virginia Fiennes.
So they’ve now written a captivating book about “Bothie the Polar Dog,” the incorrigible little scamp who misbehaved all the way through the toughest possible journey around the world.
“A mongrel he undoubtedly is,” Fiennes says. “And a stubborn-minded, non-house-trained, contrary-souled, yappy-voiced one at that.
“But he is also Bothie who made us laugh and gave us something to love and talk to during those long, difficult months.”
Sir Ranulph and Lady Virginia led the historic Transglobe Expedition, a 52,000-mile journey that for the first time circled the globe across both poles. Prince Charles, the expedition’s enthusiastic patron, called it “gloriously mad.” He might have been talking about its mascot.
Bothie, a scruffy brown-and-white terrier, spent a nine-month hibernation in Antarctica stealing frozen eggs from food stored in snow tunnels, licking them until they melted, then gobbling them and smelling disgusting afterward.
Traversing the wilds of northern Canada and Alaska, he stood firm on his 5-inch legs in a muzzle-to-muzzle confrontation with a full-grown moose.
During a long winter in the farthest Canadian north he played dangerous tag with polar wolves. Every mile of the three-year journey, recalls Ran Fiennes, Bothie proved “a fully fledged renegade.”
Now Retired at Age 7
Bothie is 7 now, living in quiet retirement in suburban London. Ginnie Fiennes claims he can even “sit still now for more than 5 minutes at a time.”
The little terrier was given to Ran and Ginnie in 1977, two years before they set out to rewrite polar exploration record books. His real adventures began in Antarctica, where he was laced into bright red polar headgear and jacket.
“I didn’t actually catch him looking in a mirror,” Fiennes recalls in the book, “but from his extra swagger when dressed, I suspected he thought he cut quite a dash--Bothie of Antarctica.”
Ginnie says Bothie was “utterly fearless” throughout--except once when he had only himself to blame.
He made the mistake of barking into a bowl-shaped Antarctic snow formation, and “to his amazement,” Ran recalls, “the gloom barked back,” echoing with a “horrible demon-dog noise.”
It was too much for a dog convinced that “he, Bothie, was top dog in the Antarctic.” Tail down, his stubby legs pounding the snow, he fled “straight for the main tunnel and the safety of Ginnie’s lap, shaking and whimpering,” Ran says. He stayed scared for a week.
But “he was marvelous on the expedition because he brought a sense of home and normality,” Ginnie says.
The little terrier came home a national celebrity, although even he couldn’t escape Britain’s mandatory 6-month anti-rabies quarantine. There were life-size Bothie toys and posters of Bothie in his polar jacket “looking nobly into the distance.” He was voted “pet of the year,” opened village fetes and county dog shows and made television appearances.