A sick puppy allegedly stolen from inside an animal rescue van parked outside a Kawakawa vet clinic on Tuesday afternoon has been found.
While it only took six hours to find 10-week-old Staffy X Gus, it felt like "a million years" for his carer Summer Johnson, the founder of Bay of Islands Animal Rescue.
Gus was allegedly stolen from Johnson's van around 1.40pm, while she was inside the Bay of Islands Vets in Kawakawa for a matter of minutes on Tuesday.
She opened up the backdoors of the van to allow airflow around the back where Gus was resting on a bed with a bone.
"I walked back out and the crate door was open and he was gone."
She "bawled her eyes out" while people on the street consoled her, she said.
She said the alleged theft made her feel "absolutely gutted".
"We give back to the community so, so much and this is like a complete violation."
Police confirmed they received a report in relation to the incident at 2pm on Tuesday.
It is the fourth time the group has been hit by thieves in the past 12 months, just as they have put out a call for donations to ease the financial demands of the large number of animals they rescued last year.
Around eight months ago the van was completely cleaned out twice in two separate incidents. The culprits took food, flea treatment, "just absolutely everything", Johnson said.
But at 8pm on Tuesday evening, Johnson said she got a call from a woman who had found Gus and was on her way to drop him off to her.
"I was running backwards and forwards waiting for them to turn up and deliver him. I was just over the moon."
When he arrived, Johnson said she was "just kissing, kissing, kissing, kissing" the puppy.
She said Gus is exhausted after his "adventurous" day.
"He's such a happy-go-lucky pup. He's very tired. I think he's had a bit of a traumatic afternoon."
She credits "the power of social media" and her community for Gus' safe and speedy return.
"Thanking everyone so, so very much from the bottom of my heart for keeping an eye out, ringing me with updates, and just supporting us, knowing what each and every dog means to me. They really had my back," Johnson said.
"No one was going to rest until the puppy was found."