Dog-snatched from his lawn a year ago, Digger the dog is back home with his family.
Digger, the Rotorua-based bullmastiff greyhound cross, was presumed stolen a year ago.
But his owners were in for a long-awaited reunion when they received a call from Te Puke dog pound a few weeks ago.
Dog dad James Merito said he was out mowing his lawn about a year ago, with his canine pal stretching his legs beside him.
But during a momentary lapse in attention, Digger disappeared.
"I looked back and he was gone. That was the last I saw him."
Merito searched the streets, asked neighbours for help, rang local dog pounds and posted to local social media pages asking if anyone had seen Digger.
But no one had.
A year went by without Merito and his children seeing the beloved pet dog.
Then, two weeks ago someone in Te Puke filed a late-night "roaming report" and Digger was eventually picked up.
His microchip was scanned in the morning at a local vet clinic and his owners were found through the National Dog Database the council has access to.
Merito was "really happy" to see Digger again, and it seemed the feeling was mutual.
Merito described the moment he went to pick him up, seeing each other through a fence for the first time.
"He looked at me, he knew. He knew my truck and he knew me.
"I called his name and he knew straight away."
The ride home was only the second time the eight-year-old dog had ridden in the ute cab, instead of the dog box.
He had no idea who had taken his dog, or how Digger ended up in Te Puke a year later, but Merito said people should not take animals that did not belong to them.
Western Bay of Plenty District Council Animal Services team leader Dan Barnes said cases like Digger's happened all too often and were happening more and more each year.
It highlighted the importance of dog owners sharing microchip information with councils, he said.
"Especially if you've microchipped your dog through a vet, as they register dogs to a separate database. This information, along with up-to-date contact details can make the difference in reuniting dog owners with their dogs."
It was a requirement under the Dog Control Act to register a dog over three months old.
Barnes said there was a long list of things people can do to secure their dogs but it was a dog owner's responsibility to ensure their dogs are kept safe and cared for and under control.
"Hundreds of dogs are lost/stolen each year, and that's in the Western Bay of Plenty alone. It's a big problem, which is why registration and chipping is so important."
Barnes said it was hard to say how many were returned as often they were unregistered.
"We do all we can to notify owners, which is why it's so important you keep council updated with your dog's details so we can get in touch."