During this summer’s 4 Deserts Gobi March 2016 took 101 participants througha 6-day grueling foot race through China’s largest desert.
A small homeless dog apparently lived near the race commencement line. On the first day it decided to join in, trotting alongside the runners for the first twenty-two miles.
No one could have guessed that the dog would stay for the entire race. However, it seems that she was looking for a racing partner.
The Gobi Desert is a vast, arid region in northern China and southern Mongolia. It’s known for its dunes, mountains and rare animals like snow leopards and Bactrian camels. (Wikipedia)
It seems a strange place to bond with a dog, but ultra runner Dion Leonard found the perfect running mate while recently racing in the Gobi desert. The British runner was participating in the grueling 155 mile (250 km) 4 Deserts Race across China’s Gobi desert when he was joined by a small, stray dog. The terrier refused to leave his side through the week-long race, even with temperatures soaring as high as 125 Fahrenheit (52 C)!
The dog first appeared as the racers ran over the Tian Shan Mountains and took an instant liking to Leonard. “Gobi”, as she was nicknamed, quickly became a fixture around camp. She followed Leonard into his tent and refused to sleep anywhere else.
“Once we had begun the stage Gobi seemed to like the bright yellow color of my gaiters and proceeded to run next to me,” Leonard recounted to 4 Deserts. “When she came into camp she followed me straight into my tent, laid down next to me and that was that – a bond had been developed.”
She impressed all the runners with her behavior too. She didn’t bark, bite, or chew on things. “Gobi really became the race’s mascot – she embodied the same fighting spirit as the competitors. She also rarely barked and wasn’t very demanding so we all had to take the time to try and feed her and force her to drink water,” said 4 Deserts founder Mary Gadams.
Gobi was very protective of Leonard and followed him everywhere he went. In turn, Leonard carried Gobi across rivers and made sure she had food and water. “Everyone from the competitors, volunteers and race crew fell in love with this little dog that captured all our hearts,” Leonard writes on CrowdFunder. “Gobi took a shine to me and over the week we developed an unbreakable bond as I shared my sleeping space, food/water and ultimately our companionship.”
Leonard finished second in his first 4 Deserts race. He immediately decided he’d like to take the small terrier home to the UK.
“Gobi rested on Day 4 and Day 5 due to the heat of the desert but waited for me at the finish line and I knew then this was no ordinary dog and experience,” he explained. He had to leave her behind because of the strict laws about transporting animals between Asia and Europe. However, that hasn’t dissuaded him.
Instead, he launched a fundraiser on CrowdFunder to raise the funds to fly Gobi to Scotland and is being assisted by 4 Deserts Club members and the SPCA in Hong Kong. In the meantime, Gobi is staying with the 4 Deserts Gobi March local manager until arrangements can be made.
What a heartwarming story! Here’s hoping Gobi and Leonard are reunited soon!