28/07/2016 12:36 BST

Gobi March Competitor Dion Leonard's Heartwarming Plan To Bring Stray Dog Who Ran With Him To UK

'She could’ve had rabies or germs, but as the week went on I just fell in love with her.'

Having completed the 155m (250km) Gobi desert race in China with him, ultra marathon runner Dion Leonard now wants to bring Gobi - a “friendly stray dog” - to the UK.

The Edinburgh runner has started a crowdfunder page - bring Gobi home - to fundraise to have the pooch transported from China, which he expects will cost about £5,000 and take about four months. 

“If you ever felt that magic bond with an animal I hope you can also help make this happen by giving as little or as much as you are able and anything you can (to) help with would make this story even more amazing,” Leonard writes on his fundraising page.
Dion Leonard and Gobi at the finish line of the Gobi March in China

The 41-year-old was one of 101 people taking part in the race last month which sees competitors carrying all of their own supplies, except water and tents.

Gobi appeared as racers set off over the Tian Shan Mountains for the Gobi March, which is part of the 4 Deserts race series, in temperatures of up to 52C (125F). It was not known where the pup had come from, as the nearest village to the start line was three to five miles away.

At first, according to the Mirror, the dog was content skipping across the desert among the pack, but by the second day she latched on to Leonard.
Gobi runs at Leonard's side during the 155 mile-long race

He said: “Once in camp she laid down next to me and from then on didn’t leave my side.”

He added: “She could’ve had rabies or germs, but as the week went on I just fell in love with her. She basically had me wrapped around her little finger.”

Gobi had to travel in a support for two of the race’s six legs after falling ill from heat exhaustion during the third stage, but was soon back in the race. She ran over 62 miles alongside Leonard to the finish in the Black Gobi Desert in Mongolia.
Leonard and Gobi nap between stages

During the race Leonard said he had to make “small allowances” for his companion. He carried Gobi across rivers and over sluice gates that “she could not cross on her own”. 

Leonard wrote on his fundraising page: “Everyone from the competitors, volunteers and race crew fell in love with this little dog that captured all our hearts.

“Gobi took a shine to me and over the week we developed an unbreakable bond as I shared my sleeping space, food/water and ultimately our companionship.”

Leonard’s fundraising page for Gobi can be viewed here