Ultra-marathoner Dion Leonard is on a mission to bring home a stray dog that stuck to his side as he ran across the Gobi desert in June.
The Australian, who finished second in the 250-kilometre 4 Deserts race, first encountered the dog (now named Gobi) on the second stage of the race.
“Once we had begun the stage Gobi seemed to like the bright yellow colour of my gaiters and proceeded to run next to me,” he said in a 4 Deserts blog.
“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.”
The Edinburgh-based runner said he didn’t think Gobi would be able to keep up, but she stuck to his side for 125 kilometres.
“I’m thinking, ‘This dog won’t last the whole day,’ but 25 miles (40 kilometres), I think we ran that day, and she was still with me at the end,” he said in an interview with the BBC.
Race organizers intervened and kept Gobi company on days when temperatures soared up to 52 degrees Celsius.
“There was something about the little dog in the Gobi that captivated everyone,” said 4 Deserts founder Mary Gadams. “Gobi really became the race’s mascot. She embodied the same fighting spirit as the competitors.”
Other racers described Gobi as “the best dog.”
“No barking, no biting, no chewing on things, no rooting through bags or stealing socks,” said runner Richard Henson who shared a tent with Leonard.
Leonard is now starting a social media campaign called #BringGobiHome to bring Gobi back to Scotland with him, a process that includes a four-month quarantine.
Leonard said he has a “magic bond” with Gobi and hopes he will be able to reunite with her in the U.K.
“I didn’t [adopt her], Gobi seemed to adopt me!”