Finding Gobi: The Amazing True Story of a Little Dog With a Very Big Heart
Once in a while a story comes along at just the right time, sending you on a rollercoaster of emotions from despair to joy, and ultimately providing hope in the surprising, magical resilience of life. Last year that story for me was the astonishing true story of a little stray dog who followed an ultra-marathon runner for 75 miles on one of the most arduous physical challenges on the planet- a 155-mile trek through the Gobi Desert in China. What? A dog did what? A stray dog followed an ultra-marathon runner for 75 miles through the Gobi Desert and found her forever home….. the premise is ridiculous to even think about. Friends, if you had tried to write this story as fiction a publisher would have scoffed and sent you and your manuscript packing. This story happened. It is sensational. It moved me to tears, broke my heart and uplifted my spirit. Now a gripping and suspenseful book of heart, courage, healing and beating the odds, Finding Gobi by Dion Leonard deservedly will be made into a film by 20th Century Fox.
But first let me tell you how I came upon the story. If you remember (but wouldn’t we all like to forget), last year it seemed the dominating stories in the news consisted of one dismal election after another. Outrage, brutality, terrorism and disappointments brimmed over in the social and political landscapes of the world. It seemed that collective human consciousness had detoured back to 1816 rather than 2016. Where was the human heart in the vulgarity on full display? By chance I came upon a story last summer that was being shared on Facebook. I knew nothing of the world of ultra-marathon running but I loved dog stories and stories that showed how animals heal us and make us better human beings, and here those worlds collided.
Dion Leonard, an ultra-marathon runner, originally from Australia but living in Scotland, had traveled to participate in the Gobi Desert ultra-marathon. On the 2nd day of the race, a little stray dog started following him. She followed him for 25 miles that day. Then the next day she followed him for another 25 miles. The dog was astonishing and she attached herself to him even though there were many other runners in the race. Dion named her Gobi and decided that after her herculean feats for such a small dog, he wanted to bring her home to Edinburgh. The challenge was all of the red tape involved. I began following the story at this point where they had completed the race and since Dion had to return to his job and life in Scotland, he made arrangements to have Gobi stay with some people in Urumqui who would look after her until she could go through the hoops of tests, quarantine and logistics to get sent to Scotland. Dion returned to Scotland and the social media fanbase for this story was increasing with people touched by the amazing story of how this little dog had run this race and had found her soon-to-be forever home. And then she got lost. Gobi went missing in Urumqui. OMG. I remember reading about this on FB. I remember my heart sank.
From Scotland, Dion went into action to harness help in launching a search for her in a city of several million people. He took a leave of absence from work and flew back to China to join in the search effort himself. He had the help of a group of wonderful people and miraculously, Gobi was found!
I’m not going to spoil the story for you by telling you any more details. I was honored to be chosen to be part of the Book Launch team and received the manuscript in advance of publication. What I will tell you is that this is much more than a dog-meets-man story. I was truly blown away by the depth of the details revealed in the book and can honestly attest to this being an inspiring story of healing, resilience and beating the odds. Dion Leonard and his amazing wife Lucja are an inspiration. Gobi is a force of nature and her story and how she has touched so many people around the world is deservedly a story that is now captured in this gripping and moving book and soon-to-be film.
Sometimes when I’m at my aqua-gym class doing sprints in the pool and I just can’t do another set, I think of Dion running through the heat of the desert, I think of Gobi running behind him, 25 miles a day… and I know that I can do another set too.
Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for my review from the publisher. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
Finding Gobi comes out June 13th in the U.S. and June 1st in the U.K. and Australia. A Young Adult and Children’s book are also being published.