Lost and hound: Stolen dog Toby the terrier found dumped 80 miles from home after nationwide search comes to close
An overjoyed family have been reunited with their beloved dog Toby after a nationwide search to find the missing border terrier.
When Toby the border terrier was stolen from near his home in Surrey a fortnight ago, his owners Louise and Lesley Marsh were devastated at the thought they may never see him again.
But after spending £4,000 on a nationwide campaign to find the pup, the Marsh family have found their estranged pet – thanks to a national newspaper campaign and a microchip in his back.
Three-year-old Toby was spotted wandering the streets in Ashford, Kent – more than 80 miles from his home and was taken to a local vets by a concerned dog walker. His fur was caked in mud but was otherwise safe and well.
He is now back where he belongs, reunited with his owner’s Louise and Lesley their three legged rescue dog, Peggy, and the couple’s six-month-old daughter, Pippa who were desperate for his safe return.
Louise, 28, had launched a £4,000 campaign – which included setting up social networks, distributing more than 10,000 leaflets and hiring a firm of pet detectives – appealing for Toby’s safe return.
But after celebrities such as Andy Murray, Lorraine Kelly and Will Young, retweeted calls for Toby’s safe return, the appeal featured in a series of national newspapers.
Louise thinks it was down to the appeal’s exposure and national newspaper campaign which led Toby’s captors to release him.
Louise, said: “It was so out of the blue, when they told me they’d found Toby I had to do a double take.
“A woman from the vets rang me and said ‘I think I’ve got some good news for you’.”
“I paused for breath, and then they said it: ‘we’ve found your dog, a friend of client was walking her dog and she brought him in.”
“At first, I found it hard to believe. I don’t think the vet had seen the news because it seemed routine to her.
“I was shopping at the time and I just shed tears of happiness.
“But I found out where the vets was, pulled it together and drove there immediately. You can’t cry and drive at the same time.
“I rang my husband at work on the way to the vets. When I broke the news the first thing he said was that our family is complete again, I was so elated.
“The papers played a massive part in finding Toby and it was the power of social media that harnessed that.
“It’s likely Toby’s captor saw the story in the paper and got cold feet, who wouldn’t?
“It’s funny that the day the story comes out in the paper we found him, that’s no coincidence. ”
It was Debbie James, 46, who broke the news to emotional Louise. The receptionist at Green Lane Veterinary Clinic received a call from Jan Deecer, 54, who claimed to have found the missing pup.
Jan, a volunteer for Canterbury Dogs Trust, took Toby in after she was alerted to his whereabouts by a neighbour.
Jan, from Ashford, said: “Toby was brought to my front door by a neighbour who thought I might know whose dog it was.
“He looked a little bit peaky, so I took him in and phoned the local vets immediately.
“Apart from his fur which was caked in mud, he looked in fairly decent condition.
“He was a gorgeous, well-mannered pup so I knew his owners would be missing him.
Jan, who said she will donate her £1,000 reward to the Dogs Trust, was asked by Debbie to bring him in to check his microchip.
After identifying the chip, which included the Marsh family’s telephone number, Debbie got in touch with Louise to tell her the good news.
Debbie said: “Louise was over the moon when we told her we had found her dog.
“We always promote the micro chipping of dogs and it’s something we actively encourage dog owners to do.
“He looked a little bit peaky and bedraggled when he came in, but we fed him and he seemed to perk up after a while.
“It was so lovely to deliver some good news for a change, more often than not this type of phone call can be a pretty grim.
“When Louise came in with her daughter in tow, they were so pleased to see each other. It was all very emotional.
Since Toby’s disappearance, the campaign to find the stolen dog has captured the hearts of the nation.
In her desperation, Louise, a veterinary surgeon, set up profiles for the campaign on Facebook, which has more than 1,400 likes, and Twitter, which has a whopping 1,500 followers, in a bid to be reunited with their beloved border terrier.
And it was just last week that the Marsh family filmed a live reconstruction of the moment their pet was dog-napped.
The family even took their campaign to the skies and flew a plane with a #findToby banner calling for his return.
The campaign, which is said to have cost £4,000, stuck a chord with celebrities as well, with Andy Murray, Will Young and Lorraine Kelly all retweeting messages sent from the @FindTobyTerrier Twitter campaign.
Louise said: “I’m still amazed that he was brought back to us after so a long period of time.
“After I picked him up I sent a generic text to all my family and friends saying ‘I got him’, but no one would believe it.
“I’m so thankful for all the support I received from everyone who engaged with the campaign.
“All I can say is, the person who found him did the right thing. It proves that there are dog lovers out there who genuinely care for animals.
“Now that he has returned home to us, I’m never letting him out my sight again.
“He wasn’t allowed to sleep in my bed, but now he’s got a permanent spot.”
Jan, who was yet to speak to the Marsh family at the time of writing, said she will donate any reward she receives for finding Toby to the Dog’s Trust.
She said: “I heard that there’s a £1,000 reward for the person who finds Toby.
“If Louise wants to choose to honour this promise, I will donate it all to the Dog’s Trust. It’s the right thing to do.”
Tom Watkins, founder of Animal Search UK, said: “We’re thrilled to hear the news about Toby, our sole objective was to make him such hot property that he was given up or released by whoever had him.
“I believe that thanks to the reconstruction idea we put in place and the plane that we hired with Louise played a vital part in his eventually recovery.
“We will be making him a member of our new organisation Lost Alert.co.uk and a DNA kit to capture his genetic fingerprint will be given to Toby’s family to protect him from anything like this again”.