‘Dog Gone:’ More than the expected dog cliché

On Jan. 13, Netflix launched “Dog Gone,” which has stayed within the platform’s top 10 trending programs ever since. Furry protagonist Gonker’s story is different from the ones you are used to — it has some treats and balls to fetch, but it also has some challenging moments, lots of anxiety and fewer tears than usual. 

Based on the true story of the Marshalls family, “Dog Gone” features the surprising rescue mission the family embarked on to bring Gonker home from the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. 

Starring Johnny Berchtold, Rob Lowe, Kimberly Williams-Paisley and Nick Peine, the film follows the family’s 15-day search for their pet.

“[…] The Marshall Family had 23 days to find the beloved pet before he could slip into a coma and his condition would become critical. Gonker had Addison’s disease and needed monthly shots of synthetic hormones to stay alive,” HistoryvsHollywood.com said.

Here are a few facts and curiosities that differ between the movie and the real-life story.

  • The story is based on a book. 

“Dog Gone” is based on the 2016 bookDog Gone: A Lost Pet’s Extraordinary Journey and the Family Who Brought Him Home.” The curious thing is the fact-based book is not autobiographical. Still, its author, Pauls Toutonghi, has a direct connection to the real-life family: he married into it. Peyton Marshall, his wife, is the sister of Gonker’s owner. 

  • The timing of the story is different from the real life occurrence. 

The New York Post and the original book explain that Gonker’s adventure unfolded in 1998. This represents a significant difference between the movie and real life, as in the movie, social media is cited as the news about Gonker spreads, and people post good wishes and clues.

Social media, as we know, only showed up after the middle 2000s. In real life, Gonker was found through traditional methods: flyers, calls and on-site search.

  • Gonker’s story ended up on the news.

Even if social media didn’t have an essential job in the real story, media coverage did.

“The media did go wild for this dramatic story about a lost dog on the Appalachian trail with a countdown looming until he needs his next dose of medication,” Laura Harman said for Woman and Home.

  • Fielding Marshall’s heartbreak was more profound than Netflix explained. 

“Dog Gone” shows that Gonker was the cure for college heartbreak. However, in real life, the story is deeper than that.

The New York Post reported that Fielding Marshall’s baby daughter died in 1991 during a procedure to repair her heart. His girlfriend at the time left right after the tragedy and disappeared without a word. Gonker was a cure for the resulting grief and sadness. 

  • “Dog Gone” is actually more than a story about a dog. 

We are used to watching dog movies and expect the cliché. However, “Dog Gone” goes beyond Gonker’s adventure. The film is about a life journey of finding your purpose, the family dynamic of a father and a son understanding their relationship, Gonker’s and Fielding’s resilience, his mom’s determination and so much more. 

“Dogs are almost always decent — unchanging, unaltered, predictable,” Toutonghi said in the book. “Dogs can make us more human — or more like what we imagine a good human to be.”

While the story got good reactions from many people, some viewers didn’t like how simplified Netflix’s version of this real-life journey was.

“‘Dog Gone’ is a perfectly nice family film. But it’s also clear that the makers have taken only the very basics of the real incident to make a standard family drama that doesn’t go any deeper than it has to. Meanwhile, the real story is a lot more raw and intense,” Rati Pednekar said for The Review Geek.

According to History vs. Hollywood, Gonker lived another five years after his rescue, passing away at the age of 11.

“Everyone needs one soul who loves you because you are you. That’s who Gonker was for me,” Fielding said in the movie. 

“Dog Gone” chronicles a story worth hearing, but one thing is true — the movie is not enough to make you like and admire this adventure. However, this real-life story has much more than Netflix portrayed.