Dog Gone’s Gonker: A fun-loving Retriever with heart

Dog Gone. Rob Lowe as John in Dog Gone. Cr. Bob Mahoney/Netflix © 2022.
Dog Gone. Rob Lowe as John in Dog Gone. Cr. Bob Mahoney/Netflix © 2022. /

Dog Gone (2023), a Netflix film based on a book called Dog Gone: A Lost Pet’s Extraordinary Journey and the Family Who Brought Him Home by Pauls Toutonghi, starts out with Fielding Marshall (Johnny Berchtold) and Nate (Nick Peine), his best friend, chatting on a sunny day on a campus of a university in Viriginia. After seeing a girl who rebuffed him in the company of another, he scans the area and sees another student with a dog and so decides to act on his desire to finally own one himself. So, he and Nate go to the pound.

Gonker, named for the sound of their heads hitting together by mistake, becomes Fielding’s constant companion. Gonker tags along everywhere whether it is to a campus activity such as a party or a yoga class or going to town or a nature walk. When Fielding’s family, his father John (Rob Lowe), his mother Ginny (Kimberly Williams-Paisley), and his sister Peyton (Savannah Bruffey), arrive for his graduation, his decision to own a dog is questioned.

What are some behaviors of Gonker’s breed from Dog Gone?

Gonker is a Labrador Retriever, and some of the skills of this breed are shown in Dog Gone. Of course, Gonker loves to fetch. According to the AKC website, the breed originated in Newfoundland, Canada, and were used by hunters to retrieve ducks and by fishermen to pick up and bring back fish; it had an otter-like tail that helped propel it through the water. Initially against his son having a dog, John warms up to Gonker since the dog is insistent that he hurl sticks for him to get, even during John’s Zoom calls. However, Gonker’s enthusiasm for chasing objects and creatures gets him in trouble when he is urged to chase a fox during a hike on the Appalachian Trail with Fielding and Nate.

After looking with his friend for hours, Fielding returns and frantically informs his parents. He is reminded that he should have leashed his dog, who Fielding has been raising in a sense to be free  to explore like himself. According to a website about this trail, this is the lengthiest hiking-only trail on the globe and stretches through 14 states from Georgia to Maine, and Virginia contains the most miles of any state, and much is ensconced in woods. So, this helps explain the sheer magnitude of the geographical problem of locating a lost being.

How does looking for Gonker bring people together?

Dog Gone zeroes in on the theme of finding those who are lost. The urgency for the search for him is heightened because it was discovered before his disappearance that he is afflicted with Addison’s disease, so he requires a regular shot. Spurred by both her love for Gonker and her own painful experience as a child, Ginny heads the command post while John and Fielding take to the road. Remembering his own dog, a journalist contacts Ginny and wants to do a story on the search, not just post an ad for a lost dog. Striking a chord with many, news of their mission spreads.

Along with the quest for the dog, there is a search by each family member to understand themselves and each other better. After moving back with his parents after graduation, Fielding thinks his father is ashamed of him because he has not found his niche. The two must work together and reconnect. With his son’s help, John hilariously helps smuggle a dog, one of Gonker’s friends, into a hotel that does not allow dogs, so the canine pal can aid in the search.

Directed by Stephen Herek, who also sat in the director’s chair for The Mighty Ducks (1992) and 101 Dalmations (1996) with Glenn Close, and a musical score by Emily Bear, who also worked on A Dog’s Journey (2019), this film is a heart-warming tale of the power of love. The bond between Gonker and Fielding signifies the strength of friendship and family through good times and adversity. In the credits, the cast and crew share pictures of their dogs.