Dog Gone: Gonker walks 178km to find his way home

Gonker was lost for 15 days. But he was determined to make it home. Photo / Facebook
Gonker was lost for 15 days. But he was determined to make it home. Photo / Facebook

A man grieving after the death of his infant daughter and subsequent departure of his girlfriend decided he would get a dog to help him through tough times.

Heading to an SPCA, Fielding Marshall picked up a golden retriever mix named Gonker. The dog quickly became the North Carolina local's closest companion.

According to the New York Post, Gonker was a playful, happy dog. But he suffered from health problems. He was diagnosed with Addison's disease, an adrenal insufficiency that can cause animals as well as humans to lapse into a coma if left untreated. Gonker would need monthly injections of synthetic hormones for the rest of his life.

Ten days after one of his injections on October 10, 1998, Gonker was accompanying Marshall on a hike when he ran off. His owner searched desperately for his beloved dog but he didn't come to his calls.

The story of Gonker's journey has been turned into a book, Dog Gone, by Pauls Toutonghi, Marshall's brother-in-law.

When he first went missing, Marshall's immediate concern was for the dog's ability to survive, knowing he would need an injection in a couple of weeks. He rallied around the local community for help to find Gonker.

While he plastered the neighbourhood with flyers and returned to the hiking trail on several occasions, his mother set up a command centre in her home. Using a detailed map she set about calling animal hospitals, police stations and newspapers.

Local media picked up on the story and the family began getting tip offs from people.

One man made an anonymous call to Marshall's mother to ask if they had found the dog. When she told him they were still searching he told her they would never find him and promptly hung up the phone.

By day 13, Marshall was desperate, resorting to calling Gonker's name out into the darkness.

Fifteen days after he first went missing, Marshall's mother received a call from a police officer reporting a sighting of Gonker.

He had travelled 178 kilometres, covering at least 11km a day trying to get home.

Marshall drove to the area and was reunited with his beloved pooch. While the dog's paws were gashed from running over rough terrain, he had gained weight during his journey.

Gonker survived another five years and died at the age of 11.

Marshall now lives in Chile with his wife, two children and a new dog.

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