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53 Iditarod dogs stranded in Thurston County head back to their home in Norway

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OLYMPIA, Wash. -- A group of sled dogs from Norway that raced in the Iditarod in Alaska got stranded in Thurston County.

Fifty-three dogs could be seen close to the freeway in Olympia, and the unusual scene got the attention of a lot of drivers on Tuesday.

“It looked suspicious -- a U-Haul truck on the side of the road,” Heidi Thomas said.

Instead of calling 911, Thomas decided to talk to the owners.

Quickly her concern turned to compassion for the dogs trying to get home to Norway.

“We want to go home,” dog musher Tore Albrigtsen said.

Albrigtsen explained that an airline mix up in Anchorage meant they would never make their connecting flight in Seattle.

“They would have to make a new flight for us, but we would have to pay between $80,000 to $100,000 American dollars,” Albrigtsen said.

So a team of dog mushers with 53 dogs packed into a U-Haul to make the four-day drive to Seattle from Alaska.

With nowhere to go until their Sea-Tac flight on Wednesday, the group settled for Nisqually Cut Off Road.

“It took 10 minutes, the first police car was coming; 30 phone calls about this. So we are really sorry, we are not criminals, but I am just trying to find a place where my dogs can rest,” Albrigtsen said.

They were stranded for hours until Thomas stepped in.

“We had so much land and I just thought there must be some place we can accomodate these people for the night,” Thomas said.

Thomas got the approval from the Nisqually Indian Tribe to use an Olympia farmland as a refuge.

“It makes me feel good that these dogs are not going to be stressed tonight,” Thomas said.

It was a stranger saving the day for a tired group stranded thousands of miles away from home.

“Makes me believe in humans again. Down there, it was hell; this is heaven and the people here are fantastic,” Albrigtsen said.

The tribe is making sure the group has food and water. The dog mushers say they will spend the night in sleeping bags on the farm with their dogs. Their flight for Norway leaves Wednesday.