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Saturday book review: 'Finding Gobi,' by Dion Leonard

Cover of "Finding Gobi" by Dion Leonard.
Cover of "Finding Gobi" by Dion Leonard.

A captivating true story of courage, connection and cuteness while overcoming unbelievable odds

“Finding Gobi” will live on long after the finish line has been crossed and the book has come to a close in the myriad of hearts of all those that fell in love with this incredible loyal and determined little dog.

This nonfiction follows in the footsteps of an ultramarathon runner, Dion Leonard, who crosses paths with a stray dog while competing in a gruelling 155-mile race through China’s harsh Gobi Desert. The encounter will not only change the course of their lives, but prove that love knows no boundaries.

Along the Tian Shan Mountains, a brown blur of fur with an enduring spirit and soulful eyes joins Leonard on his race. They cross towering sand dunes, yurt villages, and deep gushing rivers, through the sweltering temperatures of the Gobi Desert, as well as the sandstorms, for nearly 80 miles.

Previous races for Leonard, an Australian living in Edinburgh, Scotland, would focus on going through hell and back to cross the finish line for the top prize. But to understand the transformation that takes place in the Gobi Desert race, Leonard weaves a darker background of his youth through the storyline.

We learn about the joys and heartaches of a family unraveled by death, the need to be loved and accepted as a boy, loneliness and strife, the constant criticism of “not being good enough,” and the determination to survive in a small rural town in Australia.

This background information is important to fully grasp the transformation of Leonard’s heart on this race. He starts out as a loner, concentrating his efforts on his wife, Lucja, who is often seen as a beacon of light in his darkest hours – she paved the way for Leonard to become an elite runner.

But when the stray connects to Leonard, he finds himself letting “Gobi,” he names after the Desert, in. Gobi sleeps in Leonard’s tent, he gives her food and water out of his own limited supply, and he carries her across numerous rivers.

Although putting Gobi first could mean falling behind in the race or worse, not finishing at all, this story becomes more than just a race – it’s a testament that a dog really is man’s best friend. The narrative illustrates an underdog rise above all the naysayers in life.

Leonard did not cross the finish line first, but he did win something much greater – a new lease on life and a new family member that he planned on bringing home. An excerpt from the story goes:

“We were bringing her back because, strange as it might sound, she was already a part of the family. And when it comes to family, you don’t count the cost.”

However, before Leonard could take Gobi home, she went missing in the sprawling Chinese city of Urumqi where she was being kept by Nurali. Finding Gobi is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Has she been kidnapped because of the worldwide publicity or worse, is she dead?

With the help of strangers and outpouring assistance on the internet, Leonard embarks on a journey to reunite forever this amazing animal that changed his life and proved to him that miracles are possible. It takes a village to raise a child, but it takes almost half the world to find a dog and bring her home.

This inspiring rescue story ends with a big dose of goodness.

The author, Dion Leonard has competed in the toughest ultramarathons across the world in the most inhospitable landscapes: the brutal Moroccan Sahara Desert, twice in the 155-mile Marathon des Sables and twice across South Africa’s Kalahari Desert, also 155 miles.

When I asked Leonard what’s next in their chapter, he said, “On (Sunday) June 10 we move to Chamonix in France, so another new adventure and country for Gobi to explore. Gobi is four on June 20, which is also our two-year anniversary of meeting in the Gobi Desert.”

Leonard concluded that Gobi is, “living the dream in her new life.”

To learn more visit www.findinggobi.com or follow on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @findinggobi.

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