Nalah the bulldog has been reunited with her family, who are "over the moon" after a search that went viral on social media.
Nalah disappeared, believed stolen, from her Te Puke home on Monday last week. Five days of social media posts and the offering of a $5000 reward saw her found in Rotorua and brought home by ''dad'' Detroit Paki last Friday.
He said Nalah had jumped "all over him" with excitement when she was found.
Detroit and his ex-wife, Mystique, got Nalah for their daughters, Ella, 11, and Mia, 9, when they were in need of some extra love after their parents' break-up.
Ella and Mia were heartbroken after the dog disappeared.
That all changed when Detroit and Nalah arrive back home last Friday.
''We'd all been mourning our doggy and thinking 'is she going to come back', so to have her brought back in Detroit's ute on Friday evening and see her run down and make a beeline for the girls and the girls to her, I think we all just erupted in absolute tears. It was a very, very special moment.'
''Our 11-year-old, who is an absolute animal lover, she just burst into tears and so did Mia ... they were kissing, they were hugging.
There is a photo capturing the moment.
''In the picture you can see on Ella's face that she's been crying because that's how happy and I guess relieved she was that her Nalah-girl was home.''
Normal rules mean Nalah and the family's other bulldog Rocky are outside dogs and sleep in their crates.
''For the next 48 hours Nalah had to sleep in the bed and sleep inside and they were not allowed out of Ella and Mia's sight,'' said Mystique, who was greatly appreciative of everyone who helped find the family pet.
''We are just so grateful to the media and all the public that just really got behind it. The thing is we were a mum and dad and all we wanted to do was bring our dog home to her home and to our babies so they weren't broken.''
Mystique said Detroit, with whom she shares custody of Nalah, got home from work about 5.20pm on Monday to find the gate ajar.
"He'd been at work all day and noticed the gate, which is probably about chest height, was just ajar, which is really weird.
"Our big bulldog came out and Detroit called for Nalah but she didn't come."
Having feared the dogs might be stolen, they already had security cameras installed at the house.
Footage from the cameras showed two men putting Nalah in their car and driving away.
"Two males walk into the property, open the gate and lead both dogs out. The older bulldog actually went back in the gate and was barking. Nalah is only 1 year old and she is childlike so she went with them."
Mystique said it was horrible to think the two men had used Nalah's loving nature and trust against her.
"I had to tell my girls ... that their Nalah was stolen and they are devastated,'' she said before Nalah was found. ''We're not mourning a dog who's dead but somebody took something that doesn't belong to them.
"That dog is family to them, they play with her, they walk her, when their dad comes to pick them up they make a beeline for Nalah. To have to explain that to them last night that someone has stolen the dog is a memory I never want to have to live through again.
Detroit said his daughters' hurt drove him in his search.
"The heartbreak that I heard in their voice just made me more determined to not give up."
Detroit said the response on social media to the 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.
A police spokeswoman 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
- Additional reporting David Beck