Brian Berry says he’s got his best friend back now that Molly the Jack Russell is back by his side at his Houghton home after being taken in 2008.
The 10-year-old dog was found by police on a travellers’ site 95 miles away in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, on Thursday, after being identified by her microchip.
Brian, 68, a retired mechanic, said: “I couldn’t believe it, I thought there must be a mistake at first. The police said they found her on a travellers’ site along with a lot of other dogs and had scanned her micro-chip.
“I’m just ecstatic now that she’s back home. It’s like having my best friend back after all this time, and I’m never letting her out of my sight again.”
His wife Pauline, 64, a retired carer, added: “A woman police officer phoned up to say they’d found her and thought at first that I said she’d been gone seven weeks, she couldn’t believe it when I said it had been seven years.”
Brian, a great-grandad-of-four, worked as a mobile mechanic and had a garage at the bottom of Balfour Street, where he lives.
He kept Molly, and her sister from the same litter, Megan, in a kennel attached to the garage, and the faithful hounds kept him company every day while he worked.
But four days after Molly had a litter of eight puppies – on August 27, 2008 – Brian went to the kennel to find Megan there alone.
He said: “I went down to give them their morning feed and saw that the locks on the kennel had been broken off.
“At first I thought someone had broken in to pinch my tools, but then I noticed the lock on Molly’s cage was broken and her and the puppies were gone.
“I had a heart condition and the shock knocked the breath out of me and I almost collapsed. A neighbour saw me and helped me back to the house, I just couldn’t believe it.”
The couple, who have two other dogs – Megan’s puppies Charlie, seven, and Shelly, three – got the police involved and searched tirelessly for their pets, putting up posters around the town and even putting an appeal in the Echo.
But as the years went by, Brian began to doubt he would ever see his beloved Molly or her puppies again.
His luck suddenly changed last week when police in Wakefield contacted the couple to say they’d found Molly.
She was moved to a kennel in Rugby, Warwickshire, and Brian drove the 190-mile journey on Friday to be reunited with his long-lost friend. Unfortunately, it is not known what happened to the puppies.
He said: “I never really gave up hope that I would find her but I had began to doubt that I would ever see her again. She was three when she was stolen and I’d had her and Megan since they were eight weeks old and they went everywhere with me.
“People always used to laugh at them sat in the front seat of my van and sticking their heads out the window. I used to sit and wonder what had happened to her and if she was OK.
“I wish she could speak so she could tell me where she’s been and what happened to her, but at the same time, I might not like to hear it.”
Pauline added: “We hoped that she was sat on some little old lady’s knee somewhere but that probably wasn’t the case and you can’t help but think the worst.”
When Brian was eventually reunited with Molly she was very underweight and had scars all over her face. It’s still early days, but he says that she’s already on the mend.
He said: “I was just ecstatic when I saw her – it was quite emotional. I think it took her about 10 minutes to realise who I was, but I was just sat stroking her and she started licking my face and I knew that she recognised me and knew then that she was safe.
“Her teeth are rotten and she’s got lumps on her glands, scars on her face and is underweight, but we’ve taken her to a local vet who said it will take time but she’ll be back to her old self soon. She’s starting to show improvement already.”
He added: “There are so many people to thank, the police and the staff at the kennels for getting her back to us and all our friends and family who helped look for her when she went missing.
“The woman police officer who found her had a micro-chip scanner on her and I hope this could lead to all police carrying them.
“I just can’t believe I’ve got her back after all this time. I just want to say to anyone else whose pet has gone missing or been stolen, just never give up hope.”