The safe return of police dog Thames a week after he disappeared in the Tararua Ranges is a perfect Mother's Day gift for the wife of his handler Constable Mike Wakefield and for well-wishers throughout New Zealand, says police spokeswoman Kaye Calder.
Mr Wakefield spoke at a press conference on Friday about how his family, including his two boys, were "desperately missing" Thames since the sable coloured four-year-old dog vanished a week ago.
"It's a good Mother's Day present for a lot of people. Mike's the dad I suppose but it is a great present for his wife, and their family," said Ms Calder.
"Mike's family were all out in another lower part of the search area and were among the first to be advised - they're just over the moon," Mrs Calder said.
"Everyone is absolutely delighted. We've had thousands and thousands of people following the news of Thames' disappearance and sharing their interest and concern and we're sure this news will make their day as well.
Thames had parted company with his Wairarapa handler in the Totara Creek to Red Creek area at Mt Holdsworth while returning last Sunday morning with Mr Wakefield and a small group who were completing a search and rescue exercise.
More than 20 searchers in the first two days of Thames' disappearance had unsuccessfully scoured the dense off-track terrain where he was last sighted.
After heavy weather forced the suspension of searching for two days, half a dozen civilian and police officers had resumed the hunt at higher altitudes on Saturday morning.
Mrs Calder said two search teams were flown in to the area yesterday morning and had camped out overnight, scouring the top High Ridge area.
"Paw prints were spotted early this afternoon and the searchers honed in on them following a fresher track," she said.
"Thames was sighted, the teams called and whistled him. He was hungry but fine and no doubt Constable Wakefield gave him the long promised cuddle and tummy rub," she said.
"Police thank everyone for the messages of support and concern for Thames since he went missing."
Mrs Calder said high winds had this afternoon prevented an airlift for Thames and his rescuers, and the teams were facing a four to five hour tramp to the Mt Holdsworth forest park entrance.
"We are absolutely delighted at the news and Mike is ecstatic," Senior Sergeant Mark Davidson, Wellington Police Dog Section, said.
"There's some very happy people up there and one happy dog."