World Travel

Oscar, the globetrotting dog

Monday, July 22, 2013
Oscar, the globetrotting dog

This is Oscar, the globetrotting dog rescued from a dog shelter in South Africa by Joanne Lefson, a former professional golfer. From 2009 until last year, this little pooch and his owner travelled around the world with the goal of raising awareness about the millions of homeless dogs in the world - 500 million, according to Joanne.

'Oscar became the only dog to ever go ‘walkies’ on the Great Wall of China, and the only mutt to sniff out the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu (Peru) and Angkor Wat (Cambodia). He has survived the crocodiles in the Zambezi River, explored the borders of Pakistan on a rare double-humped camel, kissed the Sphinx at sunrise, sailed above Rio in a hang glider, paraglided off Lion’s Head, zip-lined over the rain forests of Costa Rica and even made a wish in Rome’s Trevi Fountain. He has been arrested by the Italian Police, sneaked across the Malaysian border, and escaped the deadly anacondas in the Amazonian Jungle. The territorial jet setter has lifted a leg at many of the world’s most famous landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower (Paris), the Parthenon (Athens), the Colosseum (Rome) and Christ the Redeemer (Rio). Thanks to an Elvis impersonator, Oscar and I even got married to each other in Las Vegas!', says Joanne.

Sadly, earlier this year Oscar was run over by a lorry during his last trip to San José in California.

We talked with Joanne Lefson, who said she was feeling a great emptiness due to the loss of her travel mate.

How did you meet Oscar?
I adopted Oscar from an animal shelter in Cape Town in 2005 one day before he was going to be put to sleep. I'm not sure why I chose Oscar — he was cute, very cute, but there were many dogs at the shelter that would have also made a wonderful friend to me — but I could only take one home and it was Oscar. There are so many wonderful dogs at shelters and not enough good homes. That is why Oscar and I travelled so far, to tell people that if you want a wonderful animal, please, do not buy a dog, or breed a dog, go to your local shelter and adopt a dog.

Oscar going for a ride on a camel.

Where did you and Oscar travel to?
In 2009, Oscar travelled around more than 36 countries over five continents. Then in 2010 we travelled across South Africa in a vehicle telling Oscar's story and showing a video of his World Tour. In 2011, we flew on a hot air balloon across South Africa, and in 2011 and 2012, Oscar and I travelled throughout America, Europe and India to spread the word about how wonderful it is to adopt a dog from an animal shelter.

You took lots of great photos on your travels, how have you used them?
We wrote a bestselling book Ahound the World in 2010. The pictures show where Oscar has been and why Oscar is such a good model for homeless dogs and shelter dogs. It was fun taking the photos of Oscar all over the world at those famous landmarks.

What do dogs mean to you?
There are almost 500 million homeless dogs in the world that would make wonderful pets if only given the chance. We hope that Oscar's story inspires everyone who sees him and reads about his remarkable travels to adopt a dog from a shelter and give a homeless dog a home. They make the best companions and the best of friends. Why buy a dog? Why support a breeder who makes dogs for money? This is crazy. The world does not need more dogs, we need more homes for the ones that are already here.

Want to learn more about Oscar and his mission? Visit

User comments
Sad for your loss Joanne, but at least poor Oscar didn't have to go through three months in an Australian doggie prison (quarantine) on his return to Australia. I am fully bemued that unvaccinated people can travel anywhere but a companion animal that is vaccinated right up the wazoo can't accomapny an Australian overseas and return without quarantine drama. The EU issues pet passports that facilitate your dog's ability to accompany you across the 28 member states but I can't take my little dog to Bali and bring it home again.