Beloved Dog With Deadly Illness Walked 111 Miles Home After Getting Lost On Appalachian Trail

If you were camping or hiking with a beloved friend or family member and they got lost in the wilderness, you would likely go to any length to find them and ensure their health and safety. In 1998, Fielding Marshall had to do just that when his six-year-old golden retriever mix, Gonker, got lost from him while hiking the Appalachian Trail in Virginia.

Source: Paul Toutonghi

Marshall’s brother in law, Paul Toutonghi, recaps the frantic search for Gonker in the Appalachian mountains and the impact it had on his family in his book Dog Gone.


Source: Audible

Gonker was no ordinary dog for Marshall: he adopted Gonker as a puppy shortly after his baby daughter died during a heart surgery in 1991, after which his girlfriend left without saying goodbye. Gonker was Marshall’s best friend and rescued him just as Marshall had rescued the young pup.

“Every family, it seems, has that single pet – the one that’s different from all the others – the one that somehow becomes enshrined in family lore,” writes Toutonghi.


When Gonker got separated from Marshall in 1998, Marshall knew he had to find Gonker right away.

Gonker suffered from Addison’s disease, which is an adrenal deficiency requiring that the dog receive an injection once a month to survive. The entire Marshall family sprung into action to help find Gonker, searching the surrounding forest, contacting local authorities and shelters, and even got an article into the Associated Press news wire.

15 days after he had gone missing, a call from a police officer reported that he had been found eating food from a trash can 111 miles away from his hometown.

“He bolted toward his owner, running faster than Fielding had ever seen him run. Dog and owner collided… and fell to the ground in a heap,” recalls Toutonghi.

After his great adventure, Gonker lived five more happy years with the Marshalls before passing away at the age of 11.

If you’ve ever questioned dog as man’s best friend, this story will surely set this idea straight.