When Jim Benson and his family saw their car and boat missing on Friday afternoon, a wave of panic washed over them.

For while all their belongings had gone missing, it was Zoe the border collie they were most worried about.

She had been left unattended in the back seat of the vehicle for a matter of seconds, but it was enough time for the family to become victim of an opportunistic thief.

Benson, who is originally from Napier and now lives in Auckland, was picking his daughter up from her Napier address before heading to Mahia.

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"[We had a] laden car and boat and stopped in Trinity Crescent around the corner from my daughter's address in Kennedy Rd," Benson said.

Zoe the Border Collie. Photo / Supplied.
Zoe the Border Collie. Photo / Supplied.

Although he left the car with the keys in hand, it was the separate electronic key in a handbag in the car "which allowed the thieves to open the door and take off".

The car was later found on Lister Cres, emptied of all its belongings.

Benson says police noticed a person loitering near a car, who then got into the car.

"Police stopped that person and opened the boot. My son driving past looking for the dog
recognised our chilly bin and then wetsuits. Police followed the address back and found boat."

But it was Zoe who sparked a frantic dog hunt and a social media plea by police and members of the public.

Daughter-in-law Rebekah Mitter said she was taken by the reaction from the community.

"It was crazy. My wife and I have just moved to Hawke's Bay in the last three or four months and I've never used Facebook really in any sort of capacity like that.

"I was really shocked when people said they went out looking for her ... It was so sweet"

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During the ordeal, they were using app, the Find My iPhone app which tracks the location of apple products.

"Because of the two locations of where the phone was being pinged, she could have been anywhere between that. She's also a border collie, so she can run really fast and far, so it pretty much becomes a bit like finding a needle in a haystack."

Five hours after Zoe was first reported missing, Napier resident Fiona Bishop found her on Lister Crescent.

Three days since the ordeal, Mitter says 2-year-old Zoe seems to have "bounced back".

"I think she's a little bit wary of getting into people's back seats but yesterday she was on the beach and making friends with strangers."

Benson says they were "exposed to the best and worst of Napier".

"Electronic signals indicate the spoils were quickly distributed and used by several parties in a variety of locations. This job was organised."

However, he says the police effort was "superb", with officers going off-shift staying to help.