'Has anyone seen Gobi, my race partner?'
AN AUSTRALIAN, who raised enough money to take a stray dog that followed him during an extreme marathon in China back to his home in Britain, has been left heartbroken.
Gobi, who accompanied Dion Leonard during the event in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, has disappeared.
There is still no sign of her.
He had raised enough to take the animal back to Edinburgh, Scotland.
"I am very heartbroken and saddened about it," said Leonard. He returned to Urumqi, the regional capital of Xinjiang, on Sunday to look for the small brown animal.
"Gobi and I formed such a strong bond during the 250km race. It breaks my heart knowing that we were going to be spending more time together but now this may not happen," the 41-year-old said after another day of searching for Gobi with volunteers.
There have been sightings of dogs that look like Gobi but all these have ended in disappointment.
The dog had been due to arrive in Beijing this week to start a four-month process of medical checks before being flown to Britain in time for Christmas.
Gobi ran alongside Leonard in June during the Gobi March, a seven-day race across mountainous and desert terrain in Hami prefecture, when temperatures of up to 52 deg C were recorded.
They even cuddled together during the night.
At one point, he had to cross a river during the race.
Instead of thinking about beating others, he stopped and carried Gobi across.
After the race, he decided to take her home to Scotland.
But the dog disappeared from where she was being looked after in Urumqi.
"I received a phone call on Aug 15 from Urumqi but I believe Gobi had already been missing for a couple days before this," he said.
"There is a 10,000 yuan (S$2,000) reward for Gobi's return," added Leonard, who will stay in Urumqi for a week to search for his lost canine friend.
ASIA NEWS NETWORK