Extreme marathoner Dion Leonard made an unexpected friend as he ran 125 miles through China's Gobi Desert March this year. MNN reports that on the second day of the seven day race, Leonard noticed a tiny, scrappy stray dog running beside him. While Leonard was running with 100 other competitors, the dog—who appeared mysteriously, miles from the nearest town—decided to follow only him. Soon, the two were inseparable, and Leonard now plans to take the tiny pup, who he named Gobi, home with him to Scotland.

Leonard was impressed not only by Gobi’s loyalty, but by her fortitude. The little dog ran 25 miles with Leonard on the second day of the marathon and, in the end, completed four out of six stages of the race (the last two stages, across the Black Gobi Desert, were deemed too dangerous for the little pup to participate in, so she waited for Leonard at the finish line). During their journey over tough terrain, Leonard sometimes helped her over rivers and carried her over sluice gates she couldn’t cross on her own.

Each night, Leonard let Gobi share his food, water, and sleeping space. By the end of the race, the marathoner and the stray dog had developed such a close bond that Leonard could no longer imagine leaving Gobi behind when he returned to Scotland. So he launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise the £5000 (about $6500) needed to bring her home with him.

“If you ever felt that magic bond with an animal I hope you can also help make this happen,” he wrote on Crowdfunder. “Anything you can help with would make this story even more amazing!”

Leonard, who also planned to sell his whisky collection to subsidize the cost of bringing Gobi back, needn’t have worried: The crowdfunding campaign has 46 days left and has already exceeded its goal by over £5000. Leonard says he will donate the extra money to a local animal shelter.

Listen to Leonard to tell his story in the video below, courtesy of BBC News.

[h/t MNN]

Know of something you think we should cover? Email us at tips@mentalfloss.com.