Do you believe that dogs are still a man’s best friend?
The old saying about a dog being man’s best friend has never been more true for one man, ultra marathon runner, Dion Leonard. While running through the desert on a gruelling 250km marathon, a cute little pup befriended the racers. The story is enough to warm even the coldest of hearts…
4 Desert Races
The 4 Desert Race Series, is a series of four 250km races across desserts around the globe. The races were recognized as the worlds leading tolerance footrace by TIME magazine in 2009 and 2010. People say it is the ultimate test of human endurance.
The Gobi March
The Gobi March, the series’ inaugural race, was held in the Gobi Desert of western China in 2003. Over the following three years, an additional race was introduced in a new location every year. In 2004, the Atacama Crossing was held in the Atacama Desert of Chile. This was followed by the Sahara Race in the Sahara Desert of Egypt in 2005. In 2006 a fourth race, called The Last Desert, took place in Antarctica and was the first year in which all 4 Deserts races were held in the same calendar year.
Ultra Marathon Runner
Ultra marathon runner Dion Leonard hails from Scotland. He’s run countless marathons over the years some harder than others. In 2016 he decided to run the 4 Desert Race and it’s there that he found popularity from all corners of the world, thanks to a new four legged friend.
A New Friend
When Dion Leonard started his run in the Gobi March, a seven-day race in the deserts and mountains of China, he kept on noticing a little dog keeping pace with the rest of the field. Over the course of the next week, the stray dog, which Leonard later named Gobi, kept pace with him
On the first day of the race, many of the runners noticed a little dog that had joined them on their journey. No one knew where the little stray had come from as the closest town was miles away. By the second day, Gobi zeroed in on Leonard and ran side-by-side with him for the 25-mile stage of the event
When it came to stages four and five, the organizers transported Gobi to the end of the stage where she rested in the shade, patiently awaiting Leonard’s arrival. When he did, she jumped up and ran with him to the finish line
Over The Finish Line
Straight away after crossing the finish line, Leonard and his wife, Lucja, began looking into the possibility of bringing Gobi home. They discovered that it would take about four months, which would include medical checkups, two quarantines and mountains of administrative paperwork in China and Scotland.
Bring Gobi Home
But shortly after Leonard left, disaster struck. Gobi escaped from a home in Urumqi, China, where she was being kept before being sent to quarantine. Leonard immediately flew from Scotland to search for her
Beginning To Search
In an interview with 5 Live Radio, he said “I needed to come and do it, just to be sure in my own mind I had done it, but realistically, I was dreading having to go back home next week without her.”
With a team of volunteers, he started a social media campaign, but also looked for her the old-fashioned way, putting up fliers all over the city and talking to taxi drivers and vendors, visiting parks and shelters, and going on local TV. But he wasn’t optimistic that he’d find the pup.
A Fruitless Quest
At the bottom of his heart, Leonard feared it would be a fruitless quest. Urumqi is a huge city of 3 million people, and he feared the dog could even have run back into the countryside that surrounds it, where people speak the Uighur language, don’t use social media and were unlikely to even be aware of the campaign.
However, he said his hopes began fading after they failed to find a lead for five days. “It’s been really difficult to remain positive in front of everyone else,” he told BBC 5 Live. “I’ve been going back to my room every night and falling into a bit of a heap.”
Then, A Phone Call
A local man called and said he and his son had spotted a stray dog. They brought her home and thought maybe she could be the missing Gobi. Leonard went to the man’s home, skeptical this could really be his dog.
Still, after a couple of false alarms, Leonard was not so hopeful the dog was Gobi. The man had sent pictures, but the lighting wasn’t good. He anyway went to the mans home to check.
“Walking into the room, I was already thinking this isn’t going to be Gobi, and I’m a bit down about the last few days,” he told The Washington Post. “I walked into the room, and I didn’t say a word. There were actually about 10 people in the room at this stage.”
Squealing With Delight
“Gobi spotted me as soon as I walked in, and she started running toward me,” he told the Post. “Literally, she was running up my leg and jumping all over me and squealing with delight.”
Quarantine Under A More watchful Eye
Leonard says Gobi now has to undergo 120 days of quarantine in Beijing, but he hopes to come out once or twice to visit her during that time and then have her home with him by Christmas.
Leonard has raised more than four times the amount he needed to initially bring Gobi home and he plans to donate any surplus funds raised to a local animal shelter.
[Featured image credit: www.insideedition.com]