Dog Gone review: Wholesome and heartfelt family drama

Inspired by 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 focuses on 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.


Dog Gone follows Fielding Marshall, who 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 the Virginia University campus and moves into Fielding’s parents’ home after he graduates.

His parents, John and Ginny (Kimberly Williams-Paisley), 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 spoils him with cuddles and food.

Eventually, the canine is diagnosed with Addison’s disease, but the family keeps it under control with a monthly injection. When Fielding separates from Gonker on the Appalachian Trail, things get worse for the Marshalls.

Thus begins an elaborate operation to find Gonker in time for his next injection, which is due in 20 days. Meanwhile, Fielding deals with a serious stomach condition but keeps it under wraps to focus on finding his beloved pet.


The acting in Dog Gone is pretty straightforward and basic. Not because the actors are bad, but the script never really demands anything extraordinary from its cast.

Berchtold and Lowe play well off of each other and portray a believable father-son relationship. The former’s performance as a lost teenager trying to find his purpose in the world is also quite relatable. Some of the best moments of the film feature the two trying to mend their relationship while looking for Gonker.

Williams-Paisley doesn’t have as much screen time as her fellow cast members, but her character’s past explains her urgency and pain toward Gonker’s situation.


Dog Gone is a wholesome family movie that never loses sight of what it aims to showcase. There are multiple sub-plots like Fielding’s relationship with his father, his health condition, and the nature of his bond with Gonker, all of which are explored without creating any unnecessary tension.

The character arcs are not uni-dimensional, and all of them experience growth throughout the narrative. The film never shows the dog facing unnecessary hurdles in the wild for cinematic purposes. It is refreshing to witness an earnest rescue tale that isn’t overly dramatized.

The plot touches all the right bases when it comes to portraying a dog’s importance in a human’s life. To Fielding, Gonker is described as the only one who loves him for who he is at a time when even his parents doubt his life choices.

Furthermore, Dog Gone also excels when it comes to showcasing intimate family moments in a time of crisis. Adapting a true story is always risky, but director Stephen Herek hits the nail on the head with this one by creating the perfect balance between the highs and the lows.


Although there is nothing glaringly wrong with Dog Gone, the film overall will not blow your mind. Sure, there are some gut-wrenching and potentially teary moments, but knowing the ending, sort of takes the urgency away from it.

We know that Gonker will be found and the family will be okay, making it difficult to feel that edge-of-the-seat excitement when it reaches the climax.

A final nitpick would be that some of the dialogue is quite cheesy and the film has quite a few of these corny moments.


Even though it may not rise to the levels of Hachi: A Dog’s Tale or Marley & Me but Dog Gone is still a worthy contender for your watchlist that deserves to be enjoyed with the family and the pets.

Dog Gone
Dog Gone review: Wholesome and heartfelt family drama 1

Director: Stephen Herek

Date Created: 2023-01-16 19:07

Editor's Rating:

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