‘Dog Gone’ Ending, Explained: Did The Marshalls Find Gonker? What Is The True Story Behind The Film?


The puppy eyes, adorable tail wiggles, and sloppy kisses are impossible not to fall in love with, thus making dogs the perfect human companion. The unconditional love that dogs bring to our lives is why many decide to adopt them, but they often do not consider the responsibilities that come with them. Fielding Marshall was heartbroken when he noticed his ex-girlfriend with her new partner. He wanted to pour his love and affection on someone, and a dog seemed like the right choice. Even though his best friend Nate did not believe he had what it took to look after a dog, Fielding had his eyes on a yellow lab whining for affection. “Dog Gone” is about the bond Fielding and his family shared with Gonker and how losing him, in a way, brought them closer together.

Spoilers Ahead

‘Dog Gone’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?

Gonker grew up on the campus of Virginia University. He was Fielding’s companion at parties and even yoga classes. Fielding always wanted Gonker to be in touch with his wild side, and he preferred keeping him off the leash. His parents learned about Gonker when they traveled to his university to attend his graduation ceremony. His father, John Marshall, ridiculed his decision to adopt a dog at a time when he was clueless about his future. Fielding believed that it was Gonker who helped him enjoy his college years, and he would not have had it any other way. Fielding was worried about his future and watching his friends discuss their job offers did not make it any easier. He was a man who enjoyed adventure sports, but he was not sure if he could ever make a living out of them. He spent the last day on campus with Gonker doing all the things they loved doing together. Even though he had missed his graduation ceremony to the disappointment of his parents, he had no regret. After college, he went home with his parents to the suburbs, and Gonker was introduced to the rules of the house. But of course, his parents could not keep up with their strict act owing to Gonker’s adorableness.

The ones who never wanted a dog inside their house were now enjoying every moment with Gonker. John became his fetch buddy, and Ginny spoiled him with food and affection. While his parents enjoyed the company of Gonker, they were worried for their son. John wanted Fielding to become a responsible adult, and he struggled to accept that his son was taking a break to figure out his life. The transition from carefree college life to being out there in the world to make a living was not easy for Fielding, and the growing urgency to find a job did get to him. Meanwhile, one afternoon, Gonker seemed more lethargic than usual. He did not greet Ginny after she returned home, and his food bowl remained full. He was rushed to the pet hospital, where they were informed that he was suffering from Addison’s disease. The vets were not sure if he would make it that night, but to their surprise, the next morning, Gonker was his usual playful self. Gonker’s sudden illness further taught Fielding how big of a responsibility it was to be a dog parent.

Fielding went out with Nate to the Appalachian Trail, and he took Gonker along. He was off-leash, and he went into the woods to chase a fox. All this while, Gonker would always return when called, no matter how far he went, but this time it was not the same. Even after calling him multiple times and going deep into the forest, there was no sight of Gonker. Fielding returned home and informed his parents, and they started their extensive search for their beloved boy the next morning.

‘Dog Gone’ Ending Explained: Did the Marshalls Find Gonker?

Ginny was reminded of her childhood when Gonker went missing. She had a dog named Oji, whom she lost due to an accident, or at least that is what her parents told her. Her parents were strict and lacked affection; they did not enjoy the presence of Oji and refused to allow him to enter the house, even when it was heavily snowing outside. Ginny was young then, and she did not have the means to find Oji, but this time she was not ready to give up anytime soon. She gathered the phone books and called every pet hospital, shelter, and media outlet to spread the word about Gonker. They needed to find Gonker within 23 days because, without his monthly shot, he would not survive. Gonker’s story was published in newspapers, and it touched the hearts of its readers. People took the initiative to spread the word about him, and flyers were distributed all around. Meanwhile, John and Fielding went to the Appalachian Trail to conduct a thorough search. They met several dead ends, leaving them tired and frustrated. During their journey to find Gonker, John realized that his son might have been struggling to find his path, but he was responsible enough to prioritize finding Gonker even when he was physically exhausted. He was proud of the man his son had grown up to be—a kind and emotional soul.

After relentlessly searching for Gonker for days, the Marshalls believed that they must end the search. It was getting physically and emotionally exhausting for them. Luckily, within a few hours, they were informed that a dog that fit the description of Gonker was at the Evergreen Lodge in Nellysford. When the man over the phone mentioned that the dog showed him a donut trick, the Marshalls knew that it had to be Gonker. They drove down to the lodge, and Fielding called out for him. From the woods came Gonker running towards him. Finally, they were reunited with their best boy. As soon as John and Fielding safely brought Gonker home, Fielding collapsed on the ground. He had been unwell for months now and had been suffering from acute pain, but he chose to hide it to focus on finding Gonker. He was taken to the hospital, and his parents learned that he was suffering from ulcerative colitis. After the successful surgery, Fielding started to recover. The doctor advised him to get good sleep, but he struggled to sleep without Gonker by his side. John had the perfect solution; he snuck Gonker into the hospital, and Fielding was more than happy to have his buddy by his side.

Even though he was suffering from pain and could barely eat anything, Fielding did not wish to stop searching for Gonker. While John once wondered if his son lacked determination and a sense of responsibility, he was proven wrong. Fielding’s decision to adopt Gonker was perhaps one of his best decisions in life.

What Is the True Story Behind The Film?

The Marshall family lost Gonker on the Appalachian Trail in 1998. Just as shown in the film, Gonker suffered from Addison’s disease, and the Marshall family had only 23 days to find their dog because, without his monthly shot, he would not make it. John and Fielding Marshall traveled in search of Gonker, while Ginny focused on contacting shelters, community centers, and newspaper houses. Soon, a community of dog lovers was searching for Gonker. Ginny, in real life, did have a dog named Oji, and he was her support system during her childhood years. Losing him was traumatizing for her, which is why finding Gonker became an important mission for her. When writer Pauls Toutonghi, the son-in-law of John and Ginny, was told about the incident, he realized the emotional connection that the family had with the story of finding Gonker. He had initially planned to gift the book to the family during Christmas, but it ended up becoming a published book. Writer/producer Nick Santaro pitched it to Netflix and thus began the journey of “Dog Gone.”

After losing Gonker once, the Marshall family ensured that he was never separated from them again. And keeping up with his knack for adventure, Fielding gives kayaking tours in Chile. “Dog Gone” is an emotional journey; it is not simply about finding a lost dog but also the deeper emotional impact that it had on the family– from how it helped Ginny recover from her childhood regret to how it made John understand his son better than ever. While, of course, losing Gonker was an emotional rollercoaster for the family, ultimately, it was a happy ending.

“Dog Gone” is a 2023 Drama Family film directed by Stephen Herek.

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Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni has worked as a film researcher on a government-sponsored project and is currently employed as a film studies teacher at a private institute. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies. Film History and feminist reading of cinema are her areas of interest.

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