A North Carolina man grieving after the death of his infant daughter and departure of girlfriend found a dog to help him through the tough time. But little did he know he would soon lose his beloved pet as well.
Gonker, a golden retriever, was 6 years old when it ran away from his owner, Fielding Marshall, during a hike on the Appalachian Trail. The dog, although playful and happy, suffered from Addison’s disease, an adrenal insufficiency. It was a condition that could slip the animal into a coma, if left untreated for more than a month.
Gonker had his last shot a week ago, which meant Marshall had only 23 days to find his dog before he lost consciousness.
The entire Marshall family staged a frantic search to find their beloved pet. Marshall and his father combed the woods where Gonker ran off and stuck fliers on every available surface, while his mother set up a command center at home.
The local press got involved in the story and the family started getting tips from sources. However, not all of them were sympathetic to their cause.
One man made an anonymous call to Marshall’s mother to ask if they had found the dog, and when she replied in the negative, told her they would never find him and quickly slammed down the phone.
But the efforts of the whole community paid off when police officers reported a sighting of Gonker after 15 days.
The golden retriever had traveled 111 miles, covering an average of 7.4 miles a day, to find his way home, and had gashes on his paws for making the extended journey.
Marshall quickly drove to the place and man and dog were finally reunited.
“Gonker leapt upward with joy,” Pauls Toutonghi, Marshall’s brother-in-law said in “Dog Gone,” the book he wrote to recount the family’s desperate search. “He let out a staccato yelp, tossing his head to one side, his eyes as wide as they possibly could go.”
Gonker lived for more than five years after his ordeal. Marhsall has since married and lives with his wife and new dog in Chile.