Why Is Jefferson the Black Lab Walking Across South America? To Get to the World Cup

He's also helping raise money for drought relief in Brazil -- oh, and jumping in a lot of puddles.


Jefferson Ramsey Moore is a black Labrador Retriever who is presently trotting his way across South America, from Uruguay to Brazil, to attend this summer’s World Cup soccer tournament. He is also a huge fan of jumping in puddles, he often smells pretty bad, and he has an innate disdain for cows.

Jefferson arrived at what’s become his life’s mission after he stumbled across four intrepid England soccer fans embarking on a near-2000 kilometer walk from Uruguay to Brazil, in a bid to raise money for the J de V Arts Care Trust and help combat drought in Brazil. He decided to tag along with the quartet for kicks and has been with them ever since.

While taking a break from their epic trek, I Skyped it up with walking party members Adam Burns and Dave Bewick to get the scoop on the dog who should rightfully be the World Cup’s unofficial mascot.

Dogster: How did you come to meet Jefferson?

Adam Burns: Throughout the whole trip so far we’ve had many dogs follow us for a while — the longest has probably been about 30 kilometers, so about a day of walking. To be honest, Jefferson smelled really bad and after about the first 15 kilometers of him following us we stopped in a cafe, and the owner told us he was a stray dog. We wanted to get rid of him because he smelled so badly but he kept on following us. By the end of the day when we went to set up our tent on the beach we had grown quite fond of him.

How bad did Jefferson smell?

Dave Bewick: He smelled terribly. He has a thing where he loves jumping in puddles wherever he can find them. I think just before he found us he managed to find a puddle with something dead in it because he smelled absolutely atrocious, to the point where you couldn’t be downwind of him without gagging. But his character sort of came through after he’d dumped himself in another couple of puddles and washed the stench of death off of himself, and we fell more in love with him.

What does Jefferson look for in a good puddle?

Dave: He likes a bit of depth so he can get right in there. He’s a bit of a black Lab, and he gets hot when the sun beats down on him, so if he can get down and have his back in the water then he loves that. But he’ll roll around in any shallow puddle he finds.

What sort of attempts did you make to get rid of Jefferson at the start?

Adam: It was really the initial attempt in the cafe where we tried to shoo him off but he was going nowhere. He’s also pretty strong so there’s no moving him. From then on, though, he’s just been the best companion we could have hoped for. We always talked about having a dog come along for the journey. When morale is really low and we’ve been walking through rain for seven hours, Jefferson will jump in a puddle and it’ll give us a real needed boost.

How would you describe Jefferson’s personality?

Adam: He’s very relaxed but we’ve also got a motto called “Jefferson decides” — we can’t make any decisions for him, really. He does what he wants and you sort of go along with it. Stubborn is probably the best way to describe him.

Dave: He’s also quite protective over us if other dogs come near us. He’s got a little nasty streak in him, I think. He walks by our side down the hard shoulder of the road and never really leaves us — unless he see some cows. He hates cows.

Adam: There’s a big metal statue of a bull we walked by and he was going crazy at it trying to scare it away!

Is Jefferson with you for the duration of the journey now?

Adam: We’re hoping to take him all the way to Brazil but we have to work out whether we can get him over the border. We’re pretty confident that he’ll still be with us on the other side in Brazil.

Would you try and sneak Jefferson over the border if need be?

Adam: I think because there’s so many stray dogs in this part of the world, there’s not too much control, so we’ll take his England shirt off him and just walk across the border ourselves and he’ll follow. I don’t think he knows any Portuguese but I don’t think it’ll bother him too much.

Would you consider putting a Brazil jersey on him to help get him over the border?

Adam: He was a Uruguayan dog and we’ve converted him to England, so I think any other changes might confuse him a bit.

Dave: As we said, though, Jefferson decides, so even if we tried that I don’t know if he’d accept it.

Does Jefferson seem aware that he’s walking so far with you guys?

Adam: There’s some days when he seems a little bit confused about what’s going on but not too much. He had a bit of a dodgy paw for a while but he walked it off. He’s definitely lost a bit of weight. In the mornings, he’s more than happy to jump up and start walking again the next day — sometimes more than we are.

What does Jefferson eat?

Adam: The first day we were reluctant to feed him because we didn’t want to take him away from where he was living, but after the second day when he started following us we gave him some meat from a barbecue on a beach where we camped. Four or five days ago we bought him his own bowl and got him some dry mix and he’s been enjoying that. But he still gets treats and lovely leftovers.

Where does Jefferson’s England shirt come from?

Adam: It’s a World Cup ’98 shirt, and we put it on him not thinking that he obviously needs to go to the toilet, so he weed all over it in about five minutes. So we took it off, washed it, and took the mid-rift off so he can wear it. It fits perfectly — he’s never tried to take it off. It’s actually in the wash at the moment in a launderette, and he’s also getting a hose down because he went in a horrible puddle yesterday.

Has Jefferson shown any interest in kicking a football about?

Dave: He doesn’t mind picking one up with his mouth every now and again, but I don’t think he’s as good at football as we are.

Does Jefferson have any tips for who’s gonna win the World Cup?

Adam: Well, they had Paul the Octopus predicting matches in the last World Cup, so I reckon we can give him some options, like two bowls and label them Italy and England and see which one he chooses.

Do you think Jefferson would be a better mascot for the World Cup than the official one? It’s a weird armadillo.

Dave: Definitely, he’s got a lot more character than that thing. He’s much better looking — he’s quite refined, actually.

What’s going to happen to Jefferson when you get to the end of the walk?

Adam: We finish our walk on a pitch in Porto Alegre, and hopefully we have a home for him there with someone we met in Mendoza. We’re not looking forward to saying goodbye to him, and we’re keen to keep him until the end. So we have that option, and we also have about three or four big Brazilian TV interviews coming up where we’re gonna make Jefferson the vocal point, so hopefully that’ll help. We’ve also found that the last five or six donations to our charity have all mentioned him, so he’s definitely capturing the imagination.

If Jefferson could speak, why would he encourage people to donate to the charity?

Dave: The fact that we’re doing this to get fresh water out of the ground means that hopefully that might create puddles. I’m sure the chance of getting a puddle in Brazil would be Jefferson’s main motivation.

You can donate to Jefferson’s cause via the JustGiving website.

Read more about rescue on Dogster:

About Phillip Mlynar: The self-appointed world’s foremost expert on rappers’ cats. When not penning posts on rap music, he can be found building DIY cat towers for his adopted domestic shorthair, Mimosa, and collecting Le Creuset cookware (in red). He has also invented cat sushi, but it’s not quite what you think it is.

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