Heartbreak has turned to joy for Whangārei pet shop owners whose beloved pets have been returned days after they were stolen.
Keith Thompson, from Barkleys on the River, said the two chinchillas, rainbow lorikeet and blue tongue lizard were hungry and skittish but unharmed.
A man brought them into the store yesterday morning and told Thompson's daughter who was working in the shop, ''I'm going to make your day.''
Thompson gave the man his word he would not name him or say anything more about his retrieval of the pets other than he had overheard some young people talking about having the pets, and made them turn them over to him.
''He had nothing to do with the theft. He's done us a great favour by bringing them back and for that I thank him,'' Thompson said.
The man refused to take the reward Thompson had offered for the animals' return.
Thieves smashed a back door to pet shop on Monday night and took the three easy-to-catch, popular animals. Thompson had feared for the lives of the long-time pets as all three creatures needed special care and diets.
Through the Northern Advocate and social media, he pleaded with the thieves to return the pets and also offered a reward.
"Please don't hurt them, even out of ignorance. They will die if they aren't cared for correctly," he said.
Most of yesterday the lizard rested under a heat lamp to raise its low blood temperature to a safe level. Thompson said he was amazed the reptile was alive because it had been life-threateningly cold.
Chinchillas Mac and Peg are about 20 years old. The pets are a regular feature at the shop and had just moved into a new cage. They had earlier lived in the lounge at Thompson's house before moving to the pet shop, and required nightly medication to ease arthritic pain.
Hawk, the very tame lorikeet, which climbs on customers' heads and shoulders and is a favourite with kids, is 18 months old and has been at the shop since it opened.
The colourful bird requires a special liquid diet and does not eat seeds, bread or fruit.
Thompson said the kindness and practical help offered by the community, businesses and total strangers had been overwhelming.
''The police have also been incredibly helpful.''
The bulk of the reward — Thompson would not reveal how much was offered — was put up by two local businesses who were moved by the story of the theft.
Other people had also contributed, including a young man Thompson described as ''a bit of a rough diamond'' who walked in off the street and offered $10 to put toward the reward.
Thompson said a beefed up security system had immediately been offered and installed by Jeff Webb Electrical.
Although many people came in just to see the animals, they would all now be under the eye of security cameras.
"It's sad we've got to do it, but, overall, this is a good news story. It's an outcome we couldn't have dreamed of.
"I can't thank people enough for the way they've cared.''