Kaitaia's Beryl Andresen mourned the disappearance of Bella the black labrador but never lost faith she would turn up again.
For two months she hoped son Phillip's canine friend would return after she suspected Bella was nabbed by thieves from their Far North property.
Beryl's faith was rewarded this week.
Bella is home, not quite as shiny as she was but fit as a fiddle and happy, thanks to a caring woman in Auckland and a microchip.
Bella disappeared from Worth St, Kaitaia on January 12, but as time went by Beryl never lost faith and last week she got a call from Auckland - 330km from home.
It appeared Bella had wandered on to a property in Otara, making herself at home with a woman and three children.
A few days later the woman, who Beryl said had looked after Bella very well, took her to a vet to be vaccinated and treated for fleas. The vet found a microchip that indicated Bella had been reported missing.
Phillip wasted no time in driving to Auckland to collect her.
Beryl was convinced that Bella had been stolen.
"She loves cars, and might have got into one of her own accord, but she could hardly do that without being noticed. The best you could say is that she was not taken accidentally."
Bella's disappearance had brought to mind stories Beryl had heard about pets being stolen to fight, or to be used as "bait" for fighting dogs in training, but tried to put such stories out of her mind. Another possibility was that she had been taken as a gun dog.
"She's got a bit of pointer on her, and that would have been right up her alley. I could have lived with that," she said.
Beryl was "over the moon" to have her home again, however.
"I've been missing her so badly, but I never gave up hope," she added.
"I thought about her every day, and worried about what had become of her."
The only parties that were not quite so thrilled to see Bella return were Beryl's cats, Snowball and Apple.
"They don't seem to be so impressed, but they'll get over it."