CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - Dion Leonard has been doing a lot of running in Georgia’s Cloudland Canyon State Park lately. But it’s not seeing the ultra-marathon runner that’s stopping other visitors in their tracks.
“I mean, of course, Gobi is the star of the show, not me! I’m just the one that talks and shares the story.”
Gobi is the little dog that came out of nowhere, following Leonard during an intense, 155-mile race across the Gobi Desert in China — a story later told in the New York Times Bestseller Finding Gobi.
“During the race I would fall in love with her, and make her a promise that I was going to bring her home," says Leonard. "And at the time I was living in Edinburgh, Scotland, but before I could do that she went missing in China, so I have to fly back to China to find her, and our story really starts again there.”
The book’s massive worldwide success is a turn of events Leonard says he never could have imagined during a difficult childhood: “To be out on the streets with absolutely nothing, if you’d have told me then that I’d have a New York Times Bestseller, and a film deal with 20th Century Fox and Disney, I’d have never believed it.”
Now, traveling across the United States speaking to readers, Leonard, his wife, and Gobi are spending some time in Chattanooga — waiting out the coronavirus pandemic while exploring the area.
“We’re very lucky here, we’ve got such great trails, across the border in Cloudland Canyon, in Georgia, and also trails around here in Chattanooga, where we’re staying.”
Though their next move is uncertain, one thing is clear — Gobi will always be there, ready for the adventure.
“All of this came about because of one act of kindness. And one act of kindness where I picked Gobi up, I took her across the river crossing throughout the race, really connected and our bond was formed, and that was the moment that really changed both of our lives forever.”