Based on a true story that has been written about in Pauls Toutonghi’s novel, Dog Gone: A Lost Pet’s Extraordinary Journey and the Family Who Brought Him Home”, this film follows college graduate Fielding Marshall (Johnny Berchtold), who is separated from his dog Gonker on the Appalachian Trail. He then teams up with his dad (Rob Lowe) to look for his canine friend before it is too late.
Warning: This article contains heavy spoilers
Dog Gone opens at Virginia University where Fielding Marshall adopts a labrador retriever puppy from the pound to cope with a breakup. After he gonks him on the head, the young man names his new best friend Gonker. The pup grows up on campus and finally, college is about to end.
His parents, John and Ginny (Kimberly Williams-Paisley), along with his sister Peyton (Savannah Bruffey), arrive for Fielding’s graduation and are shocked to see Gonker. The folks are not pleased with their son’s decision to raise a dog, considering he doesn’t even have a job.
To make matters worse, Fielding realizes he only has 24 hours left on campus and sleeps by the river with Gonker. As a result, he misses his graduation. Fortunately, the parents don’t react too harshly. Fielding finally packs up all his stuff and drives home with the dog.
John and Ginny take a little time to get used to Gonker’s chaotic presence in the house but eventually warm up to him. John becomes his fetch partner while Ginny starts spoiling him with cuddles and food.
One day, Gonker is lethargic and refuses to eat. The family takes him to the vet and discovers that he suffers from Addison’s disease — a condition where the body doesn’t produce enough glucocorticoids, which can result in adrenal insufficiency, lethargy, pain, and sometimes even falling into a coma.
The vet tells the family that it is a 50/50 chance for Gonker to survive the night. However, if he does then the condition can be easily controlled with a monthly injection. At home, John talks about the responsibilities that come with raising a dog. Fortunately, Gonker makes a full recovery and is back to his usual hyperactive self the next day.
Fielding takes Gonker to the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, and the labrador runs off to chase a fox. He has done this numerous times before and always comes back. Unfortunately, this time it’s different. Fielding and his friend Nate look for the dog, but he is nowhere to be found.
The boy rushes back to his parents in panic and breaks the bad news. Ginny scolds Fielding for never using a leash on Gonker, and the family realizes he only has 20 days before he needs his next injection.
The next day, Ginny and John collect phonebooks to have access to important locations in all counties including dog pounds, animal hospitals, police stations, and more. They also decide to check with all places where people gather like churches, clubs, and newspapers, for information on Gonker.
Ginny also works on getting out printed ads and holds command at home. Meanwhile, John and Fielding prep for a search and rescue. The latter also spreads the word on social media.
The father-son duo explores the trail, searching by day and staying at motels at night. They hand out pamphlets to everyone they meet and check animal shelters. Also, Fielding starts suffering from stomach aches and refuses to eat but hides this from his dad to continue the search.
Word spreads all over, and everyone in the county is on the lookout for Gonker. John also tries to mend his relationship with his son on this journey.
Dog Gone ending explained in detail:
Is Gonker found?
John and Fielding get a call from Ginny saying that a local shelter has found a labrador with Addison’s disease. However, when they reach there it turns out to be some other dog.
Fielding is extremely disappointed, and his health deteriorates further. John takes them back home, but the young man is determined to head back. Ginny explains to him that they have over 100 people looking for him, and he still hasn’t shown up. They believe that he’s lost forever.
As he rests, Fielding calls his sister and opens up about his health condition. She urges him to talk to John and Ginny, and he obliges. However, before he can open up, they get another call from the Evergreen Lodge in Nellysford.
The person claims that a labrador has been eating out of their trash and doing tricks with donuts. John and Fielding rush there and eventually find Gonker. The dog traveled 111 miles to be at the lodge.
Is Fielding sick?
Once they bring Gonker back home, Fielding collapses. He had confessed to Peyton earlier that he had been having stomach aches for months. Also, he hasn’t been able to digest food lately. Initially, he thought it was a stomach infection, but the condition had gotten worse.
Once at the hospital, the family finds out that Fielding is suffering from ulcerative colitis and could have perished if treatment had been delayed more. The doctor reveals that they had to remove the bulk of his large intestine, but he is going to be fine.
As he recovers, Fielding doesn’t sleep well because he is used to sleeping with Gonker. John sneaks the dog into the hospital, and his son finally gets a good rest.
What is Ginny’s story?
Throughout the film, we see flashbacks of Ginny’s childhood where she got a dog named Oji as a gift, but her parents were extremely harsh towards him.
Eventually, he ran outside under her parents’ observation and was run over by a car. She was distraught and vowed not to love another dog again. However, when Gonker came into her life, she found that love again and his being lost took a toll on her.
Finally, when Gonker came home, Ginny was so relieved she also imagined Oji running to greet her.