The Netflix movie is based on the 2016 book Dog Gone: A Lost Pet's Extraordinary Journey and the Family Who Brought Him Home. While the fact-based book is not autobiographical, its author, Pauls Toutonghi, does have a direct connection to the real-life family. He married into it. Toutonghi's wife, Peyton Marshall, is the sister of Fielding Marshall, the young man who was Gonker the dog's owner. Toutonghi's father-in-law is John Marshall, who is portrayed by Rob Lowe in the film. Kimberly Williams-Paisley's character is based on his mother-in-law, Virginia 'Ginny' Marshall.
Pauls Toutonghi got the idea for the book after his wife's family told him the story. "This was the Marshalls' famous family story," Toutonghi says. "When they told it to me, I was really captivated. Ginny is a great storyteller in person, and so is John, actually. The two of them together are just kind of a force of nature." Toutonghi says that he was originally going to write the story and give it to the family as a Christmas gift. However, he changed his mind after talking with Ginny more and realizing there was enough there for a published book. -Lewis & Clark College
One of the differences between the movie and the Dog Gone true story is that in the movie, the dog is a Yellow Lab, but in real life, the missing dog Gonker was a six-year-old Golden Retriever mix. True to his breed, he loved to play fetch and could spend hours retrieving sticks. He also had a reputation for looking out for the humans around him. On one occasion, he barked frantically to wake his owner, Fielding Marshall, after a house party. One of Fielding's friends had passed out on the bathroom floor and there was a poisonous snake slithering nearby. -NY Post
Like in the movie, the real Gonker the dog belonged to the Marshalls' son, Fielding Marshall. He adopted the dog from the local SPCA in an effort to help himself heal emotionally after the death of his infant daughter. Gonker became Fielding's best friend. The movie fictionalizes his motivation for getting the dog. He's bummed after seeing an ex-girlfriend on campus with another guy.
Yes. This impressive feat is described in the Dog Gone book. Gonker loved donuts and would eat them by nudging the donut along the ground until he could get the tip of his nose inside of it. He would then throw the donut into the air and catch it in his mouth as it came back down.
Yes. In researching how accurate is Dog Gone on Netflix, we learned that on October 10, 1998, six-year-old Gonker bolted into the woods while he was hiking with his owner, Fielding Marshall, on the Appalachian Trail close to the Blue Ridge Parkway near Catawba. Fielding began to desperately search for his beloved companion, but there was no sign of the dog. Would Gonker be able to survive the cold? Would a hunter mistake Gonker for a deer? Would he be found before he needed his next monthly injection that kept him alive? These were some of the questions that Fielding asked himself.
According to Pauls Toutonghi's book, the Dog Gone movie true story confirms that 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. He went missing on October 10th and was due for his next injection on November 2nd. -The Daily News Leader
Yes. In the movie, Fielding Marshall and his father, John, use a megaphone to call for Gonker during their search. This comes straight from the Dog Gone true story. In fact, the megaphone that the family used is still on display at the Marshall house, reminding them of when they came together as a family to find Fielding's lost dog. -NY Post
Yes. As a child, Virginia 'Ginny' Marshall, who is portrayed by Kimberly Williams-Paisley, was a victim of parental abuse, including by her alcoholic mother. She found solace in her beloved childhood dog, an Akita named Oji. In real life, her father, a colonel in the military, ran over Oji while backing out of the driveway. Virginia went into a depression and failed the fifth grade.
Her parents tried to have her committed and took her to a mental asylum for a psychiatric evaluation. When the doctor spoke to her alone, she told him about Oji and of how she feared her mother and had been all but abandoned by her father. Seeing that she wasn't crazy, the doctor urged her to get away from her parents and stay with a relative. She ended up going to live with her father's father, her grandfather Munson, which "saved her." As seen in the Netflix Dog Gone movie, her experience as a child and her attachment to Oji contributed to her determination to rescue Gonker.
Yes. However, his experience with the inflammatory bowel disease is significantly condensed in the film for dramatic effect. In real life, he suffered from the disease for several years and did nearly die. It's true that the symptoms began right after college while he was living with his parents. He had bad stomach pain, diarrhea, and often skipped meals, all of which he kept from his mother and father. He did suffer from the symptoms while searching for Gonker. The pain was so bad when he ate that he writes of making himself throw up in a hotel bathroom to get the food out of his stomach as his dad slept.
Unlike the movie, he didn't have surgery until years later. He went to the Cleveland Clinic right after Gonker passed away in 2003 and underwent surgery to remove most of his large intestine. This was roughly five years after Gonker was lost for two weeks in 1998. The movie condenses this and has him having surgery after he passes out in the driveway following his reunion with Gonker, a dramatic moment that didn't actually happen.
While conducting our Dog Gone fact-check, we learned that after being reunited with Fielding Marshall, Gonker lived another five years. He passed away at age 11, having enjoyed a full and happy life. Fielding has since moved to Chile, attracted to the country's "untamed wilderness." He fell in love with a Chilean woman and they have two children, a boy and a girl. They also have a dog, naturally. -NY Post