Lonely Planet Writer

An Australian runner adopted a small stray dog who ran with him through the Gobi desert

An Australian runner adopted a stray terrier dog who ran with him through the Gobi desert in China. In March 2016, Dion Leonard was running a six-day 250km ultra-marathon across the desert, when the little terrier suddenly appeared and ran alongside him for three of the six days. They even won one of the stages together.

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The two quickly formed a close bond, and Dion was so touched that the little dog wanted to accompany him through the gruelling race, he pledged to adopt her and give her a new home in Edinburgh. She had to enter 120 days of quarantine first, but disaster struck when she disappeared after scampering out an open door in Urumqi, where she was being minded for Dion. He flew back to China to search for her and launched a media and social media campaign called Finding Gobi.

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The city of Urumqi got behind his campaign, but Dion feared the worst. He was afraid that Gobi may have run back into the countryside, where people speak the Uighur language and don’t use social media. He didn’t even get his hopes up when a man called to say that he and his son had seen a small stray dog in a local park and had brought her home, but amazingly, it was Gobi. The pair had a joyful reunion, and Dion raised £19,700 through a crowdfunding campaign to cover the costs of bringing Gobi back to Scotland, and a further £9300 to finance the search.

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Gobi then underwent hip surgery and entered quarantine, before embarking on her new life in Scotland. These days, she enjoys running the trails there with her delighted owner, and fundraises for charities that encourage dog adoption. Dion has written a book about the experience called Finding Gobi, which will be released on 2 June.