The Bookends

Finding Gobi
By Dion Leonard

This is a nonfiction story about Dion Leonard an accomplished ultra marathon runner. While competing in a 155 mile race in China he meets and falls in love with an unexpected running companion. His wife is not upset, as his new love is a scruffy little dog that is a mighty runner. She is named Gobi for the Gobi Desert and becomes a celebrity as she follows Dion during a good part of this race. Dion quickly decides to bring Gobi home to the UK but things don’t go as planned. This little stray will take Dion on a course that will be harder than an ultra marathon as he battles foreign language barriers and government regulations.

BECKY This is our first non-fiction story in quite awhile. I saw the cover of this book and thought it would be a fun read. I had no idea that this was a popular story. Were you already familiar with Dion and Gobi’s story?

PAM I was so excited to read this book! I had recently seen a small piece about this story on a running website. This book mixes two of my favorite things: dogs and running. Before Dion met Gobi, I had struggled to connect with him. Did you find his voice a little brusque at the beginning of the story?

BECKY He does seem like a very serious, matter of fact, kind of man and that did impact the beginning of the story. However, during the book he shares some of his past and that helped me to connect to him. What I found amazing is that he hasn’t been running very long. He started running in his late 30’s and was competing in extreme running competitions soon after that. You are an avid runner so did this story connect to you on an athletic level when he spoke of the terrain or conditions of racing?

PAM I was also interested in his success after coming into the sport in his late 30’s. This type of story always amazes me, because I can’t imagine having the ability to run these extreme distances! I found his descriptions of his preparation for and execution of his races intriguing. His determination and drive to compete made his connection with Gobi even more special. Were you surprised that such a little dog could keep up with Dion during his ultra in China?

BECKY Absolutely! I have two dogs about the same size and there is no way they could keep up with even an average runner. Animals, dogs in particular, in China do not have the elevated social status like an American pet would. This dog did not seem to come from a home where he was fed well and took daily walks so it’s all the more amazing that he was so strong and healthy. There is a point in the book where Gobi and Dion are separated. A local group searched tirelessly for him and a Crowdfunder account (similar to Go Fund Me) was well funded by people from all over the world. Were you amazed at how many strangers were willing to help Dion find his companion?

PAM I was completely amazed and thrilled by the help he received by complete strangers! The lengths that Dion, his wife, and so many others went to in order to locate Gobi and get the little dog to a new home were amazing. Dion’s wife, who is also an ultrarunner, was very supportive in his quest to bring Gobi home. Were you surprised by her level of understanding and patience?

BECKY Absolutely! He went to great lengths and expense to locate and then move Gobi to the UK. I don’t think that many partners would be as supportive. Have you watched any Youtube videos or interviews with Dion and Gobi? Read the book first but you can lose a whole afternoon if you start watching news clips about these two. There is something really special about the two of them and it’s easy to see why the world fell in love with their story. Did you hear that it might be made into a movie?

PAM I had not heard that, but I think the story would make a great movie (especially for runners and dog lovers!). I have not watched any Youtube videos about Gobi, but plan to after your suggestion! As I was reading this book, one of my students sent me a link to a video about a very similar story. This video is amazing, as the story is incredibly touching and the video clips, music, and interviews are wonderful. The video is about a dog named Arthur and the Swedish adventure racing team that found him while in the middle of the world championships in Ecuador. The heartwarming story can be found on ESPN.com: SC Featured: A dog’s remarkable journey to find a home. While Arthur was able to get to his new home with much less trouble than Gobi, there are many parallels to these stories. Becky, do you think these strong immediate connections with Gobi and Arthur are uncommon and unique?

BECKY What a great video, and another amazing story. This month is the first time that I’ve heard of stories like this. It’s possible that there are a hundred more like it but I would imagine that it is an uncommon occurrence. I find it interesting that such devoted and focused competitors are distracted from their goal by a stray dog that they hardly know. The connections were made quickly and the men were fiercely committed to adopt and save these dogs . Both are wonderful stories for animal lovers. Pam, please tell us what we will be reading for March.

PAM Next month we will discuss the Underground River by: Martha Conway.

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