A runner has been reunited with the stray dog that randomly kept him company during a gruelling 250km ultra-marathon across China’s Gobi desert last month, before promptly disappearing and leaving him heartbroken.
Long distance running is an infamously lonely activity, but Dion Leonard found himself a charismatic companion in the shape of a little mutt, which insisted on following him all the way through the six-stage Gobi March, a foot face that takes competitors across the desert and through the mountains of one of the world’s most brutally unforgiving places.
‘Basically, on day two she decided to run with me on one of the stages, which was around 25-30 kilometres over the Tian Shan mountain range,’ Dion told the BBC.
‘She’d actually been with us the day before running through one of the largest sand dunes in China, so she was well-versed in running with all the competitors there, but on day two she decided to stick with me.
‘She would run ahead of me and wait for me 20 or 30 metres down the road and then I’d have to catch up with her…she’s such a small dog but had a massive heart.’
The odd couple soon attracted attention, which then turned into a loyal social media following. By the end of the race, Australian-born Dion was so smitten with Gobi (as he’d named the dog), that he planned to take her back to Scotland, where he now lives.
Their fans all chipped in, and almost 250 people helped raise around £8000 to help fund the cost of bringing her to the UK. But then tragedy struck.
Dion left the Gobi with a friend while he went about arranging the medical tests and quarantine procedures required to ship her to the UK, and while he was gone, the dog went walk-about — Littlest Hobo style.
After hearing about her disappearance, Dion rushed back to Urumqi and began a desperate search, which was aided online by a worried worldwide audience, including many people on the Chinese micro-blogging site Weibo. After 5 long days without a positive sighting, he began to give up hope. ‘I’ve been going back to my room every night and falling into a bit of a heap,’ he told BBC 5 Live.
But then he got a call from a local man, who claimed to have spotted Gobi at a park. ‘To be honest we’ve been down this track before with a couple of other dogs and we were quite uncertain it was actually her,’ he told the BBC yesterday. ‘When we got there, I walked through the door and she came running towards me and ran around my legs and jumped up on me. It was love again at immediate sight.’
And now that he has his best buddy back, he’s staying with her until she can return with him to Scotland, where Gobi will have to learn to live in (slightly) less challenging conditions.
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