Is Dog Gone based on a true story? Everything you need to know about the heartwarming film starring Rob Lowe

After watching Netflix's latest movie Dog Gone, fans are wondering how true this story really is, and what happened to Gonker...

Is Dog Gone a true story?
(Image credit: Netflix)

Dog Gone is the latest heartwarming movie that has been released by Netflix, but is this story based on real-life events, and does Gonker die at the end?

Starring Rob Lowe (Parks and Recreation, St Elmo's Fire) as John Marshall, and Johnny Berchtold (A Hard Problem, Snow Falls) as Fielding Marshall, Dog Gone tells the story of a dog named Gonker who went missing on the Appalachian Trail, and his owner's search to be reunited with him withing 23 days before he dies from not taking his medication.

The film was released on Netflix on January 13th, 2023, and fans are already obsessed with this emotional film that is currently one of the top movies on the streaming platform. But what inspired this film? Is Dog Gone a true story? And what happens to Gonker at the end of the film? Here's everything you need to know...


Is Dog Gone a true story? 

The movie is based on the book Dog Gone: A Lost Pet's Extraordinary Journey and the Family Who Brought Him Home by Pauls Toutonghi. In real life, the author Pauls is the brother-in-law of Fielding Marshall, who decided to write about the real Gonker's two-week disappearance in October 1998 as a Christmas gift to the family.

In the movie, Gonker was adopted by Fielding after he was rejected by a girl. In real life, Gonker was adopted in 1991 as Fielding's way of attempting to deal with his infant daughter's death. The New York Post (opens in new tab) reported, that Fielding's girlfriend (and mother to his baby) left him as she struggled to come to terms with her grief, and Fielding was left to cope with an 'oceanic wave of sadness,' following their baby's death from heart problems.

While Netflix may have changed these narrative details to bring the film into the modern age and make the film less heartbreaking, many of the facts have remained the same. Fielding and his father did reconnect during their search, and 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.

Dog Gone

(Image credit: Netflix)

Does Gonker die?

Unlike other tragic dog-focused movies such as Marley & Me, this film does not end with Gonker's death - phew! Instead, the movie ends on a high and a picture of the real Gonker shows with a message that reads, "Gonker has never separated from the Marshalls again."

In real life, Gonker died just five years after the events depicted in the film, in 2003, at the aged of 11. Although Gonker was a labrador in the movie, in real life he was a Golden Retriever mix, which is a relatively similar-looking breed to a labrador. The average age for a Golden Retriever is between 10-12 years, so the real Gonker lived to a great age considering his Addison's disease.

Dog Gone

(Image credit: Netflix)

What is wrong with Fielding on Dog Gone?

In the movie, Fielding's search for Gonker is hampered when he starts to become weak. It is revealed that he is suffering from ulcerative colitis (UC) and requires an emergency operation to remove a large portion of his large intestine. The condition is similar to Crohn's but exclusively affects the colon, as opposed to also affecting the gastrointestinal tract outside of the colon.

According to the NHS, (opens in new tab) "Ulcerative colitis is a long-term condition where the colon and rectum become inflamed. The colon is the large intestine (bowel) and the rectum is the end of the bowel where poo is stored. Small ulcers can develop on the colon's lining, and can bleed and produce pus."

It is thought that UC is an autoimmune condition, but its exact cause is still unknown. In extreme cases, ulcerative colitis can lead to death via the symptoms caused by inflammation.

Laura Harman

Laura is a news writer for woman&home who primarily covers entertainment and celebrity news. Laura dabbles in lifestyle, royal, beauty, and fashion news, and loves to cover anything and everything to do with television and film. She is also passionate about feminism and equality and loves writing about gender issues and feminist literature.


Laura loves drinking and eating and can often be found trying to get reservations at London's trendiest restaurants. When she's not wining and dining, Laura can also be found travelling, baking, and hiking with her dog.