Monday, June 13, 2016

Journey Home: review of DOG GONE, by Pauls Toutonghi

A Lost Pet’s Extraordinary Journey and the Family Who Brought Him Home
Pauls Toutonghi
$25.00; our price: $20
This is a remarkable book. On the surface, it’s another lost pet tale, this time with a happy ending (no spoiler; it’s in the subtitle). But it’s really a biographical dissection of a family. The extraordinary part of the family is their survival, beginning with the author’s mother-in-law, and culminating with her son Fielding and his dog Gonker.
As the author writes in the Prologue:
Gonker’s story—lost in the wilderness, lost and then sought, sought relentlessly and seemingly beyond the point of hope—is familiar. It’s familiar because it’s really a story about duty and death, about the way our past shapes our present, and the way we fill our necessary roles most vividly in a crisis. It’s a story about the impermanence—and permanence—of love. It’s a story about responsibility, and illness, and abuse, and generations within a family. It’s a story about the limits of human will. It has a megaphone, a map, a mental hospital, a yogi, the governor of Virginia, and—of course—a rare genetic disorder that is both fast-acting and fatal.
Gonker goes missing in early fall while hiking the Appalachian Trail with Fielding and a friend. One minute he’s happily tromping along, chasing an occasional squirrel, and the next he vanishes. At first Fielding calls him with little concern. They have hiked many miles together and he trusts Gonker’s homing skills. But minutes turn to hours, and then daylight fades and panic sets in.
Gonker is not only Fielding’s best friend, he is cherished by Fielding’s parents and sister. When he breaks the news to them, they are determined to find Gonker at all costs. There’s more at stake than just a few cold nights for the dog. Gonker has an illness that demands monthly treatment or he will spiral downward quickly. So time is of the essence.
The amazing outpouring of help and support is uplifting and humbling, especially in these hate-filled times we live in. But it is the family that truly amazes. Gonker is the glue that binds them, and he is also their inspiration.