Running towards friendship

In the new book “Finding Gobi” by Dion Leonard, if you’re a lucky jogger, you may run across a new best friend.

Dion Leonard loved to run.

Unfortunately, the ultra-marathon runner didn’t feel like he was good at it anymore. Still, he’d signed up to run 70 miles through China. Maybe that old joy would return.

And then Leonard saw the dog.

She was kind of scruffy, with a funny-looking tail and hair around her nose that made her look like she had a beard. He patted her and sent her off, but when the race started, she started running right next to him! Leonard didn’t give the dog much thought, but she paced him until that night at runner’s camp, then she curled up next to him in his tent.

The next day, the little dog again ran alongside Leonard. She never got tired, and he started to like having this companion on the marathon. At the end of the day, he made arrangements to get her across the most dangerous part of the race; those little paws simply wouldn’t be able to make it across the Gobi desert.

By the end of the marathon, in which Leonard did exceptionally well, he had fallen in love with the little brown dog and vowed to take her home to Scotland. That was easier said than done; there was yards of paperwork, all kinds of tests, quarantine, and several airplane rides.

Hand your child this book and she may immediately know that its ending won’t be sad, because the outcome is practically on the front cover — and yet, “Finding Gobi” is too charming to pass up.

Who can resist a tale of determination against all odds, cost, and logistics, when it comes to the love of a dog? Few could, that’s for sure. Be prepared for the questions that this child’s version of a grown-up book will launch: author Leonard writes subtly of his own issues at the beginning of the race, of a non-dog-loving culture, and of fame that turns strangely threatening. Because this is a young reader’s edition, full explanations are lacking; also, language is pretty advanced.

The best solution to those issues is to read “Finding Gobi” along with your 8-to-12-year-old. You won’t be sorry. As much as you love your dog, you’ll “get” this book, so make a run for it.

“Finding Gobi: Young Readers Edition: The True Story of One Little Dog’s Big Journey,” by Dion Leonard [208 pages, 2017, $14.99].

Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3 years old, and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill with two dogs and 12,000 books.

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