The hungry and bedraggled pooch – now christened Arthur –  followed the four-man Swedish team  after kind-hearted captain Mikael Lindnord threw  him a meatball during a meal break in the gruelling 430-mile Adventure Racing World Championship in Ecuador.

Arthur refused to leave his new two-legged friends and has now been adopted by Lindnord, who flew him home from South America after a tense wait for the all-clear from the authorities in Sweden.

“I had just opened a food packet when I saw a miserable, scruffy dog in the corner of my eye,” Lindnord told Swedish news site Aftonbladet. “I thought he was hungry and gave him a meatball.”

But members of Team Peak Performance were astonished when the devoted and intrepid hound then followed them for the rest of their arduous journey – swimming alongside as they kayaked down rivers, dragging himself up hills and even hauling himself through deep mud.

When the team prepared to start a 36-mile kayak around the coast they were warned by organisers that taking Arthur along could endanger both his and their safety. But when the athletes set off without him he leaped into the water and started desperately paddling alongside them. Eventually Lindnord hauled him on board and let him stay for the rest of the journey.

The team had a six-month-old injury on his back checked out by a vet, and then Lindnord applied for permission from the Swedish authorities to take him home.

“I almost cried in front of the computer when receiving the decision from Jordbruksverket (Board of Agriculture),” wrote Lindnord on Facebook. “I came to Ecuador to win the World Championship. Instead I got a new friend.”

The heart-warming tail gets even better as the team have now launched the Arthur Foundation to help thousands more stray dogs living ruff in Ecuador. Arthur himself will remain in quarantine until March, but will be receiving regular visits in the meantime. It seems a dog’s life ain’t so bad after all.