Miss­ing dog leaves desert ath­lete heart­bro­ken

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - ByCUIJIA in Bei­jing cui­jia@chi­nadaily.com.cn

An Aus­tralian who raised enough money to take a stray dog that fol­lowed him dur­ing an ex­treme marathon in China back to his home in the UK has been left heart­bro­ken.

Gobi, who ac­com­pa­nied Dion Leonard dur­ing the event in the Xinjiang Uygur au­ton­o­mous re­gion, has dis­ap­peared and there is still no sign of her.

Leonard had raised enough to take the an­i­mal back to Ed­in­burgh, Scot­land.

“It was such a shock and hard to be­lieve when I was told Gobi had gone miss­ing,” he said.

“I am very heart­bro­ken and sad­dened about it,” said Leonard, who re­turned to Urumqi, the re­gional cap­i­tal of Xinjiang, on Sun­day to look for the small brown an­i­mal.

“Gobi and I formed such a strong bond dur­ing the 250-km race. It breaks my heart know­ing that we were go­ing to be spend­ing more time to­gether, but now this may not hap­pen,” the 41-year-old said af­ter an­other day of search­ing for Gobi with vol­un­teers.

There have been sight­ings of dogs that look like Gobi, but all these have ended in dis­ap­point­ment.

The dog had been due to ar­rive in Bei­jing this week to start a four-month process of med­i­cal checks be­fore be­ing flown to the UK in time for Christ­mas.

Gobi ran along­side Leonard in June dur­ing the Gobi March, a 7-day race across moun­tain­ous and desert ter­rain in Hami pre­fec­ture, when tem­per­a­tures of up to 52 C were recorded. They even cud­dled to­gether dur­ing the night.

At one point, Leonard had to cross a river dur­ing the race. In­stead of think­ing about beat­ing oth­ers, he stopped and car­ried Gobi across. Af­ter the race, Leonard de­cided to take her home to Scot­land.

But the dog dis­ap­peared from where she was be­ing looked af­ter in Urumqi.

“I re­ceived a phone call on Au­gust 15 from Urumqi, but I be­lieve Gobi had al­ready been miss­ing for a cou­ple days be­fore this and that they were try­ing their best to find her,” he said.

“There is a 10,000 yuan ($1,505) re­ward for Gobi’s re­turn. We have lo­cal peo­ple and an­i­mal shel­ters look­ing for her, added Leonard who will stay in Urumqi for a week to search for his lost ca­nine friend.

Since ar­riv­ing, he and the vol­un­teers have walked the streets hand­ing out and putting up re­ward posters in both Chi­nese and Uygur. They have also fea­tured in lo­cal news­pa­per and so­cial me­dia re­ports.

News of Leonard com­ing to China to look for Gobi spread widely on so­cial me­dia, with many peo­ple say­ing they hope the pair can be re­united soon.

If Gobi is not found, the money raised for her trans­porta­tion will be do­nated to dog char­i­ties and res­cue cen­ters.

OMNI CAI / 4DESERTS.COM

Gobi runs with Dion Leonard in the 250 km ex­treme marathon in the Xinjiang Uygur au­ton­o­mous re­gion.

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