Gobi’s China-to-U.S. trek told to FPS kids

Farragut Primary School second-graders did not contain their excitement when they met author and ultra-marathon runner Dion Leonard, his wife, Lucja Leonard, and their favorite book character, his dog Gobi, during an assembly in the school Friday, Dec. 3.

Squeals and applause greeted Leonard, who authored “Gobi: A Little Dog With a Big Heart” and “Finding Gobi: The True Story of One Little Dog’s Journey.” He told students about the dog’s adventures and how he met her while on a run in the Gobi Dessert in China.

While Leonard described his journeys, Gobi reclined contently in her bed, chewing on a tennis ball.

“The reason we were able to have him come in is because our (Parent-Teacher Organization) was able to raise funds for the school for events like this,” said Becky Grindstaf, FPS computer technician.

“We have been reading Mr. Leonard’s chapter book, “Finding Gobi: The True Story of One Little Dog’s Journey,” for the last few weeks, and the kids were so excited to meet him,” second-grade teacher Laura Mitchell said. “They wrote him letters, too.”

“I just want to thank the second grade (for writing letters to Gobi)” Leonard said. “It’s a story of hope, friendship and beating incredible odds.

“This little dog was living in China, and I was running a race in China through their dessert,” he recalled. “We ran 155 miles in the Gobi Dessert, 26 miles a day through 120-degree heat.

“She came out of nowhere,” Leonard added about Gobi.

The first day of the race, the dog befriended two American runners and ran 10 miles with them. The second day, Gobi found Leonard, and to his consternation chewed his shoes. He tried to wave her away, but she kept returning.

When the race started, “she decided she was going to go with me,” Leonard recalled. “She followed me, running with me. She ran 26 miles that day.”

On the third day, Leonard was crossing a river when he heard Gobi whine and bark, running back and forth on the bank. He went back for her.

“Gobi and I had really become good friends,” he said. “She was always there for me.”

After crossing the finish line with his new companion, Leonard decided to take her home — but she went missing.

Although he had left China for his home in Scotland, he returned to find her. He offered a reward, and a person who found Gobi contacted him.

“When I walked into that family’s house, and Gobi was on the other side of the room,” Leonard recalled. “She came running toward me as soon as she saw me, barking and yelping and whining. She was so excited … she jumped up into my arms, and I knew it was Gobi.”

Still, it took six months before he could take her out of China, as he had to have a pet passport for the dog.

Since then, Gobi has traveled with Leonard to his runs across the world.

“Gobi loves to be out there running,” he said. “Sleeping next to me at night, eating my food, always being there with me.”