A dog has been reunited with its owners four years since he was stolen from their home after a friend spotted it for sale on Facebook.
Cotton, a Staffordshire bull terrier, was taken from Joanna Martin’s previous home in Hartcliffe in Bristol on October 25, 2008, after she had gone out to visit her mother who lives nearby.
But she never gave up hope that one day she would be reunited with her ‘little boy’.
And now her daughters Kira, 12, and Katie, six – who is the same age as Cotton – are making up for lost time with their pet.
Joanna, 31, was still checking that shops kept up posters of her missing dog as recently as last year, and continued to check for details of dogs for sale with similar descriptions.
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Then a friend who used to occasionally walk Cotton spotted a dog for sale through social networking site Facebook and showed it to Joanna, from Knowle, Bristol.
She arranged to view the dog, and contacted the police to inform them of her intentions.
Officers met her at the property and went in, arresting a woman in her early 20s for handling stolen goods.
Joanna, a full-time mum, said that Cotton had always been a part of the family.
She said: ‘Cotton is just three weeks older than my middle daughter Katie, who took it hardest when he was away – they were always with each other.
‘He was my baby boy – after having girls, he was one of the kids. He used to sulk if Katie had sweets and he didn’t.
‘So when he was taken the whole family felt the loss.
‘I got the impression they were looking to steal the dog because there were lots of items they could have taken and they didn’t.
‘Cotton is a very unusual-looking Staffordshire bull terrier and I had many offers to buy him because of his unusual patterning.
‘I had just popped to my mum’s house and was out for about an hour. It was not very long at all.
‘He was quite a good guard dog and we used to leave the back door unlocked.
‘My first thought when I got home was that he had escaped as there were no signs of a burglary or anything.’
Despite having been missing for almost four years, Joanna did not stop checking for Cotton, even visiting the dogs’ home regularly searching for him.
She added: ‘I never wanted to give up hope. I would check that shops still had posters up – they wanted to take them down after a year but I would say how dogs are sometimes found after two years.
‘He even had his own Facebook page.’
When she first saw the picture of her dog on a selling page on the website after almost four years, she knew straight away that it was Cotton.
‘When I saw his picture I burst into tears, I couldn’t believe it after all this time,’ she said.
‘I rang up as a potential customer to buy him and asked all the questions about how old he was and all that.
‘When I found him I said I wasn’t going to go home without him.’
She went straight over to the address and police officers were already there waiting for her.
Joanna added: ‘The police were fantastic.They came out and asked me for any identifiable marks he had and I explained that there was a scar across his left leg from where another dog had attacked him. If it wasn’t for that scar I don’t know if we’d have got him.’
When she returned home with Cotton on Wednesday night friends and family were already there to welcome him home.
Avon and Somerset Police confirmed they arrested a woman in her early 20s on suspicion of handling stolen goods and that investigations are ongoing.
– Joanna Martin
PC John Shaddick said: ‘I’m delighted to have assisted in Cotton being reunited with his loving owners. There was no doubt that he also shared my delight from his reaction on seeing the family.
‘Upon arrival at the scene PC Andrew George and myself were told that the dog was aggressive towards police officers but this soon proved untrue as Cotton was a very friendly chap.
‘Burglary is an awful crime and we understand, as in this case, that it can mean much more than just the inconvenience of an insurance claim.
‘To assist in returning a loved pet to its rightful home and go some way to making a bad situation better was a real heart warming experience.
‘I just hope that Cotton can now enjoy being pampered and the family can make up for lost time. They all look very happy together.’
Source [Daily Mail]