Nalah the bulldog has been reunited with her Te Puke family, who are "over the moon" after a search that went viral on social media.
Nalah was snoring in the backseat as Detroit Paki spoke to the Bay of Plenty Times on his way home from Rotorua, where the 1-year-old dog was found tonight.
The beloved family pet had been missing, believed stolen, since Monday evening.
Detroit said Nalah had jumped "all over him" with excitement when she was found.
They were on their way home to surprise his daughters - Ella, 11, and Mia, 9 - who were heartbroken after the dog disappeared. He said their hurt drove him in his search, which included offering a $5000 reward.
"The heartbreak that I heard in their voice just made me more determined to not give up."
Detroit and his ex-wife, Mystique, got Nalah for the girls when they were in need of some extra love after their parents' break-up.
Detroit said the response on social media to their call for help finding Nalah had been overwhelming, with people getting involved from as far afield as Dunedin and Whangārei.
"Honestly, that was the extra drive having people share. The amount of love we got from the public, the power of social media is unbelievable.
"We are very thankful to the public."
Detroit said the family who helped reunite Nalah with her family did not want the $5000 reward offered and were just happy the whānau were back together again.
Contacted on Friday night, a police spokeswoman said inquiries into the case were ongoing.
She said that generally speaking, regardless of what was being stolen, theft was usually an opportunistic crime.
"The best thing you can do to prevent a pet from being stolen is to reduce the number of opportunities an ill-intentioned person may have to steal it. It's also a good idea to ensure that a pet can be returned to you if it is stolen."
The theft of animals could be devastating for their owners and families, she said, because many were seen as family members.
"We take these reports seriously and will do what we can to ensure a family pet is returned safe and sound.
"Contrary to popular belief most pets are not stolen for fighting purposes, but due to their potential value when resold. This is particularly likely where the theft involves a young, purebred animal."
Some tips include:
• Don't leave pets unattended in public if you can avoid doing so
• Ensure your dog's 'run' or outdoor area is secure, or keep your dog inside when you aren't home if possible
• Make sure your pet is registered and microchipped
• Register that microchip on the New Zealand Companion Animal Register and keep the listing up to date when you move home or change contact details
• Put an engraved tag with your contact details on the animal's collar