A couple who lost their dog when he was stolen from their garden in broad daylight were left stunned when he turned up after finding his way home 14 MONTHS LATER.
Natasha Jones, 24, and George Harden, 23, claim they had turned their back for seconds when their 3-year-old German shepherd Rico was lured out of their garden with a toy in June 2019.
The pair from Armley, West Yorks, led search parties, checked local CCTV, and plastered stolen posters around the town for six months after his abduction but were never able to find him.
But the couple, who both work as IT network consultants, were then shocked and elated when a mysterious “knock” at the door in August turned out to be Rico, who finally found his way home 14 months later.
“We were sitting in the house and we thought we heard a knock at the door,” Natasha said. “One of our friends went to answer it and shouted ‘there is a large Alsatian at the door’
“I was confused so I went and had a look myself and just saw Rico’s face staring up at me.
“I’ll never forget it.
“As soon as he saw me and I saw him we sprinted towards each other.”
She added: “I never once gave up hope that we would find him again.
“Every time I saw a German shepherd dog I would be looking to see if it was Rico.
“Everyday without him was devastating and disappointing when he didn’t come home but now he’s finally back I can’t believe it’s been an entire year.
“It feels like minutes since we last saw each other.”
George had been training to become a dog handler and bought Rico as a working dog as well as family pet in May last year—but only had four weeks with the pup before he went missing.
After letting Rico out into the garden to do his business and have a play outside, the pair believe their dog was lured out with a toy while they turned their back for a matter of “seconds.”
But despite the couple reporting the missing pup to the authorities, police were unable to follow any leads to bring Rico home.
“We had a great bond from the start,” George said. “He came and slept next to me the first night that I got him and he got on with our other dog perfectly.
“I only had him for about four weeks but I’d done a lot of training with him and put a lot of work into him when he went missing.
“He’s quite a protective dog over toys and he was taken in broad daylight, so we think that’s how they lured him out.
“I only turned my back for a second but when I looked back, the garden gate was open and Rico was gone.”
He added: “I was devastated, I didn’t know what to do.
“On the day he went missing we asked around at some local shops if anyone had seen him and we found CCTV of someone dragging him down the road but we couldn’t make out their face.
“We were out every day and night looking for him for months, we put posters up all over town to the point where everyone in the community knew we were looking for him but someone was taking them back down.”
Now more than a year later, the pair are over the moon to have their four-legged friend back home but have a long training regime ahead to get Rico back to full health—the pup’s bodyweight has nearly doubled from 32 kilograms (approx. 71 pounds) to 51 kilograms (approx. 112 pounds), likely from being held in captivity.
“We think he’s escaped on his own and found his way home,” Natasha said. “I have no idea how, he must’ve seized an opportunity to run away, but it’s just amazing to have him back.
“He’s just the same old dog he always was but he’s put on a lot of weight, probably because they didn’t want to risk being seen walking him.
“Now he’s on a doggy diet, getting lots of walks and he’s been sleeping next to George where he belongs.”
The Epoch Times contributed to this report.