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How Close Does Netflix's Dog Gone Stick To The True Story Behind It?

If you've ever been a dog owner, chances are there's at least one movie out there featuring our canine companions that you're bound to love. And with titles from "Old Yeller" to "One Hundred and One Dalmatians," there's no shortage of cute and cuddly cinematic offerings out there. Sure, dog movies can be overly sentimental at times, but it's a feeling dog owners can resonate with nevertheless. And the top of 2023 saw Netflix throw a bone into the game with the film "Dog Gone."

The film tells the story of a college student (Johnny Berchtold) whose dog goes missing one day after a hike. Now it is up to him and his estranged father (Rob Lowe) to put out a massive search for the pup, who is also in need of medication. Released to Netflix on January 13, 2023, "Dog Gone" may not be the streamer's most acclaimed title, with a 40% Tomatometer score on Rotten Tomatoes, it's still another treat for dog lovers who simply want to kick back and enjoy some adorable, wet-nosed antics. 

And in the case of "Dog Gone," it's sure to tug on some heartstrings too. Losing your precious pooch — especially one with health needs — is perhaps the worst nightmare for any dog owner. What may be even more distressing to dog lovers who have seen the film is that its events have a basis in real-life events. 

The real Gonker walked hundreds of miles to get home

Netflix's "Dog Gone" may have had to stretch some details for dramatic effect, but the film itself is based on a real-life event. As reported by the New York Post, Fielding Marshall adopted a Golden Retriever mix named Gonker from a dog rescue in 1991 following the death of his newly born daughter and breakup with his then-girlfriend. The two became extremely close, and even when Gonker was diagnosed with Addison's disease, Marshall was diligent about giving his dog his needed monthly injections to prevent a coma. 

In October 1998, while hiking the Blue Ridge Appalachian Trail, Gonker bolted into the wilderness. Marshall and his mother set up a command center where they hung up maps and reached out to anyone and everyone who could help, making the search a widespread effort. On October 25, Marshall was contacted when Gonker was discovered eating trash at a ski resort — 111 miles away. 

The larger-than-life journey became the subject of the book "Dog Gone: A Lost Pet's Extraordinary Journey and the Family Who Brought Him Home" which was written by Marshall's brother-in-law, Pauls Toutonghi. Outside of some character motivations, the biggest deviation that "Dog Gone" takes is placing the events in the modern world as opposed to the 1990s, with the film's search for Gonker becoming a worldwide affair thanks to the aid of the internet and social media.