Netflix’s Dog Gone: Is the Movie Inspired by Real Life?

Image Credit: Bob Mahoney/Netflix

Netflix’s ‘Dog Gone’ is a drama movie directed by Stephen Herek. It tells the story of the Marshalls, a family of dog lovers concerned when their pet dog, Gonker, goes missing on the Appalachian Trail. Through the grueling journey of searching for the dog, Fielding and his father, Rob, resolve their issues and mend their relationship. The feel-good family tale is filled with heart-warming moments and reminds viewers of the special bond people can share with their pets. Therefore, viewers must wonder if the movie is based on actual events. If you are looking for the inspiration behind ‘Dog Gone,’ here is everything you need to know!

The True Story Behind Dog Gone

Yes, ‘Dog Gone’ is based on a true story. The film is loosely based on author Pauls Toutonghi’s book ‘Dog Gone: A Lost Pet’s Extraordinary Journey and the Family Who Brought Him Home.’ First published in 2016, the book has become a bestseller and tells the real-life story of the Marshall family and their pet dog. In reality, Gonker was the pet dog of Fielding Marshall, the son of John and Virginia “Ginny” Marshall. The six-year-old golden retriever lived with the family until he went missing in October 1998.

Image Credit: Bob Mahoney/Netflix

In 1991, Fielding Marshall lost his baby daughter during a heart operation. The baby’s mother, his then-girlfriend, broke up with him and moved away. To cope with the loss of his daughter and a broken relationship, Fielding adopted a dog from the local shelter and named him Gonker. While the film adaptation starts with Fielding’s breakup leading to him adopting Gonker, the details about his daughter are largely glossed over.

As with the film adaptation, Gonker also had Addison’s disease in real life. He required monthly injections to stop him from lapsing into a coma due to his medical condition. When Gonker got lost in the Appalachian Trail, he had taken an injection only ten days prior. As a result, the Marshall family had only 23 days to search and rescue the dog from the wilderness.

Though the film is mostly faithful to the Marshall family’s struggles to reunite with their dog, it makes specific changes to the story while adapting it in a contemporary setting with the addition of social media, smartphones, and other time-relevant technology. Albeit, the most significant deviation from reality is the depiction of Gonker as a yellow labrador instead of a mixed golden retriever. Besides, the search for Gonker boils down to the very end of the 23-day duration of the film. However, in reality, Gonker was found after fifteen days.

Author Pauls Toutonghi, the real-life husband of Peyton Marshall, the sister of Fielding Marshall, initially planned the book as a Christmas gift for the Marshalls after learning of the family’s story. Nevertheless, he changed his plans and published the story as a full-fledged novel. “When they told it to me, I was really captivated. Ginny is a great storyteller in person, and so is John, actually. The two of them together are just kind of a force of nature,” Toutonghi told Lewis & Clark about the motivation behind penning the book.

Ultimately, ‘Dog Gone’ is based on a riveting true story inspired by the Marshall family’s experiences. It is rooted in the friendship and affection shared by Fielding Marshall and his pet dog, Gonker. Moreover, with heartfelt moments reminding viewers that a dog is indeed a man’s best friend, the feel-good drama hits all the right chords with viewers, making them empathize with the Marshalls.

Read More: Where was Netflix’s Dog Gone Filmed?